- Published: September 12, 2012
- Written by Robert T. Brockman II
A while ago friend of mine who had been studying to become a hypnotherapist asked to test out a new trick on me. He told me to put my palms together in front of my chest and hold my thumbs apart. He then instructed me to try and hold my thumbs apart no matter what happened. He made a fist with both of his hands, placed them on either side of my hands, and then began moving them in a bicycle-crank like motion. As he slowly moved his spiraling hands towards mine, I observed my thumbs slowly coming together, seemingly against my will! At no time did my friend actually touch my hands or any other part of my body to induce this effect.
The experience was quite concerning and disorienting. I was quite consciously aware about what was happening to my thumbs, was actively trying to oppose their motion, and was completely helpless to resist. It was as if my motor functions had been "hacked" or hijacked by my friend, if only for fifteen seconds. The possibilities for abuse of hypnotic tricks like this seemed limitless, ranging from misdirecting crime victims so as to rob them all the way up to causing people to commit crimes against their will.
It was strange, therefore, that I was unable to easily locate conclusive scientific evidence that hypnosis had been used for committing crimes in this way. The standard explanation seems to be that although hypnotic subjects often remember performing actions involuntarily, as I did, they successfully resist hypnotic suggestions that they would "rationally" consider unethical or harmful. Apparently, in my case my memory was altered as part of the hypnosis so as to displace the locus of perceived responsibility onto my hypnotist! (If anything, this conclusion is even more disturbing.) Because of this generally accepted conclusion, claims that crimes were committed under hypnosis do not stand up to legal scrutiny.
The CIA itself investigated hypnosis as a potential interrogation tool  and determined that it was not likely to be effective, in part because of the extreme rarity of documented claims of hypnotic coercion. Sensational news reports aside , it would seem that my paranoid friends and I have little justification for fearing the use of hypnosis against us.
 Hypnosis and the Law: Examining the Stereotypes, Criminal Justice and Behavior 2008; 35, Graham F. Wagstaff, p. 1283. http://www.sagepub.com/bartol3e/study/articles/Wagstaff.pdf
 Hypnosis in Interrogation, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol4no1/html/v04i1a05p_0001.htm
 Hypnotism in Russia: A street crime weapon?, Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2005, Kim Murphy. http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2002166501_hypnotic01.html