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Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 06 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:50
  1. Raj Persaud, consultant psychiatrist
  1. The Maudsley Hospital, London

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    Robin Waterfield

    Macmillan, £20, pp 464

    ISBN 0 333 77949 5


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    One of the illustrations in this book is of a newspaper advertisement, which screams, “How to get girls through hypnotism!” The author of this entertaining book, Robin Waterfield, prosaically points out beneath the illustration, “It is impossible to make even a hypnotised subject go against her moral code.” This immediately raises the central conundrum with hypnosis—if you can't make people under hypnosis do what they wouldn't have done otherwise, then what's the point of it? The social psychologists argue that it gives subjects an excuse to behave in ways that they would otherwise find difficult to justify, and is no less powerful for that.

    Waterfield, writer in residence at Sussex University, starts his historical account of hypnosis by stating that, “As sometimes happens, science is actually behind the times on this. A …

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