Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Lessons from Turning a Hypnotized Person into a Chicken

"Help! m a student in Dr. Gibbons' Psychology class!"

When I opened my psychology practice in New Jersey, my first hypnosis client asked me, "You aren't going to turn me into a chicken, are you?" 

"No," I replied with a smile,  "That's for stage hypnotists." But I did once. And this experience taught me more about hypnosis than I have learned from any other source.

Several years ago
, when I was discussing the topic of hypnosis in an Introductory psychology class, I asked a student who had previously shown herself to be adept at hypnosis if she would be willing to help me illustrate how easy it was to turn a hypnotized person into a chicken. She readily agreed.

After hypnotizing her, I told her that I would count backwards from ten to one, and that by the count of one she would have been turned into a chicken.

"You will always be able to hear and respond to my voice," I continued, "and I will return you to your normal state in a few minutes, before I bring you out of hypnosis. But until I do, you will experience the world exactly as if you had been turned into a chicken. You will remember everything I have said, and it will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Okay?"

She nodded in agreement, and I counted slowly backwards from ten to one, providing suggestions along the way that she could feel herself changing into a chicken; and at the count of one, I announced that she had become a chicken. "Would you like to open your eyes and walk around a bit?" I asked as I gently took her by the elbow . She did so, walking slowly with a pronounced limp.

"Why are you walking like that?" I asked.

"I'm a chicken," she answered in a high, cackly voice, much to the amusement of the class.

I guided her back to her desk and counted from one to ten, interspersed with suggestios to restore her usual perceptions, and then concluded the hypnotic demonstration. I asked her if she had really felt like she was a chicken, and she 
thoughtfully nodded in agreement. 

If she had really believed that she was a chicken, why didn't she scurry away in fear as soon as I approached her? Why did she allow me to slowly walk her around the room, limping slightly instead of struggling to get away, as a real chicken would surely do? Why was she able to understand my spoken question? How was she able to answer it by saying, "I'm a chicken?" And why were the suggestions so easy to undo, as if she understood English as well as she ever did?

We could talk about a "hidden observer" that always knows what's going on and maintains control, no how matter deeply a person is hypnotized, as Hilgard (1974) did. We could talk about "trance logic," which is similar to the logic which is found in dreams, as Martin Orne (1959) did. But why should we infer the presence of extra mental processes such as these when they are not needed?

What she had actually believed and responded to was the narrative of what had taken place (Sarbin & de Rivera, 1998). She knew that she was a student in my class, and she knew that she had consented for me to hypnotize her. She was what Hilgard often referred to as a "hypnotic virtuoso." She still had the kind of "Alice-in-Wonderland" imagination which we all have as children, but most of us lose access to as we become adults. Therefore, she was able to act, think, and feel as if she were a chicken for the purpose of my demonstration when she volunteered to do so.  

The demonstration was undertaken in the spirit of fun, and everyone understood that. But the transformational effects of believed-in  imaginings can be powerful indeed if they are meaningful enough to alter the ongoing  narrative of a person's life story., as illustrated by the changed lives of many Fundamentalists who report an experience of having been "saved" (Gibbons & deJarnette, 1972).

If you can safely suggest that you are turning a hypnotized person into a chicken, why can't you safely tell hypnotized people that they are dissolving into the infinite love of the Multiverse, or the Creator Himself, and that this is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to them, so that they can get some good out of it?  You can --  and I it works!. See the posting on this Blog entitled, "Multiversal Hypnosis,  Your Superpower."


Gibbons, D. E. & De Jarnette, J. (1972). Hypnotic susceptibility and religious experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 11(2), pp. 152-156. 

Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016). Virtual reality hypnosis: Explorations in the Multiverse. Amazon Books 

Hilgard, E. R. (1974), Toward a neo-dissociation theory: Multiple cognitive controls in human functioning. Perspectives in Biology & Medicine, 17(3), pp, 301-316. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Orne, M. T,  (1959), The nature of hypnosis: Artifact and essence. Journal of abnormal and social psychology,

Sarbin, T. R., & De Rivera, J. (1998),  Believed-in imaginings: The Narrative Construction of Reality (Memory, Trauma, Dissociation, and Hypnosis) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.