The Hypnotism Act 1952 requires any demonstrations of hypnotism for public entertainment to be licensed. It prohibits demonstrations on people under eighteen and applies to any broadcast demonstration of hypnotism at, or in connection with, an entertainment which admits the public.
Although we have no evidence of harm or potential harm regarding the use of hypnosis on television or radio we should still take steps to minimise any risk of inducing hypnosis and/or adverse reactions in susceptible viewers or listeners. In particular, a hypnotist must not broadcast his/her full verbal routine or be shown performing straight to camera.
Why then is it illegal to broadcast a hypnotists' full routine, when the BBC admits that there is no evidence that any harm can come of it? From the British Medical Journal:
Overall, the reviewers conclude that "there is not enough evidence of serious risk to the public to warrant banning stage hypnotism." They recommend a review of existing legislation (the Hypnotism Act 1952) and guidance and that "audiences in general, and participants in particular, are more informed about the potential risks of participation in stage hypnosis."
They accept that a number of people have suffered after participating in stage hypnosis. "Their personal accounts tell us that there is a risk of humiliation, embarrassment or irritation, and that this risk may for some people have psychological sequelae."
Surely humiliation and embarrassment are not medical illnesses? If you feel silly because you have acted in a certain way, isn't that your own fault? And finally from Wikipedia:
Psychologists, such as Sarbin and Spanos, have suggested that strong social expectations are played out by subjects, who believe they are in a state of hypnosis, behaving in a way that they imagine a hypnotized person would behave.
Nicholas Spanos states “hypnotic procedures influence behavior indirectly by altering subjects’ motivations, expectations and interpretations” and hypothesized that the behaviors associated with hypnosis are acted out knowingly by the person. He alleged that there are two reasons that cause people to misconstrue their state of consciousness as hypnosis. One of the reasons being that people believe that their behavior is caused by an external source instead of the self. The second is related to the way hypnotic rituals are performed. The hypnotist says certain things which are first interpreted as voluntary and then later on in the procedure as involuntary. An example being “relax the muscles in your legs” and then later “your legs feel limp and heavy”.
So the question that comes to my mind is this. If people can be hypnotised over television, why have terrorists not flooded youtube with hypnosis videos, in the hope of making zombie killers (a la The Manchurian Candidate) of the worlds youth? Because reality doesn't really work like that. So fear not the hypnotists and the embarrassment that they can cause.Go Top