Spent most of today at Infosec, a big trade show for the computer security industry. Did I learn anything particularly interesting about computer security? Not really. Did I learn about some techniques for hypnotising people? Oddly, yes.
The most interesting has to be the handshake interrupt (page includes some good videos of Derren Brown using the method). Apparently – and I say this because I haven’t tried it, and nor do I intend to – it’s possible to put some people into a kind of trance fairly quickly by making as if to shake their hand and then, while their brain is on a sort of autopilot (take hand, shake up and down, let go) doing something unexpected. Something unexpected such as lifting their hand up to their face where it blocks their field of view, for example, or dropping to your knees (this is the “shoelace interrupt”). At this point, supposedly, one can issue a command with some probability that the other party will obey it. Clever. And a little disturbing.
I should point out really that I’m not a big believer in hypnosis. Or rather I believe that you can make people behave as if they’re hypnotised, but that this is merely a decision on their part to, for whatever reason, do what you say. Whether or not this is a meaningful distinction, or even just a view based on a misconception of what hypnotism is, I’m not sure. Would I volunteer to go on stage and behave like a gibbon under the instruction of a stage hypnotist? No. Do I think hypnotism could help rid me of bad habits (like, say, drinking roughly a bathtub of coffee each day)? No. If someone suddenly grabbed my hand, shoved it in my face and told me to sleep, would I obey? Maybe. Who knows. Don’t intend to find out. But, like a lot of these subjects (NLP, cold reading etc) it’s somewhat fascinating.