It has been said that hypnosis and the placebo effect are so heavily reliant upon belief and suggestion that it would be hard to imagine how a placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study. I would fundamentally agree with that. Let's consider the placebo effect and how it relates to the UFO community staple, hypnotic regression.
The American Cancer Society describes a placebo (pluh-see-bow) as "a substance or other kind of treatment that looks just like a regular treatment or medicine, but is not." It's a harmless medicine or procedure prescribed more for psychological benefit than physiological effect. It has no therapeutic value and is used as a control in testing new drugs; the drugs must demonstrate substantially better measurable results than the placebo being administered to the control group.
|A primary factor of how medication makes |
people feel may be their expectations
As we might envision, a great deal of speculation and rather fascinating questions surround the placebo effect. A researcher named Ted Kaptchuk made legitimate attempts to put a yardstick to some of the dynamics. While most studies focus upon the results of the drugs being tested, Kaptchuk was more interested in the placebos.
Harvard Magazine reported Kaptchuk's work was met with both praise and criticism but, take it or leave it, he raised valid questions. In some circumstances, it was difficult to discern if drugs had any particularly different subjective effects at all from placebos. Kaptchuk indicated that even when physiological benefits could be measured among patients given respiratory medication, they reported similar subjective interpretations of their physical conditions, or how they felt, as those given placebos. Observations were also made about patients desiring to be helpful to the researchers and deliver the results anticipated.
What I'm getting at here with hypnotic regression and the placebo effect is that there is virtually no difference between the two. If people believe that investigators of alleged alien abduction have the power to put them in trance states and clarify memories of encounters with extraterrestrials from years gone by, there is little way to validate or invalidate that belief. Slippery slopes.
Moreover, qualified professionals tell us that hypnosis subjects tend to assign more validity to hypnotically retrieved memories - and reject the notion the memories might be inaccurate - than other memories. They also tend to defend the accuracy of their memories more than their peers who have not used techniques designed to supposedly enhance memory. Hypnosis subjects tend to cling to belief in the retrieved memories even when the material is conclusively demonstrated to be inaccurate and false.
The work of Ted Kaptchuk further showed us the potential value of a good bedside manner. Patients given positive attention ("I’m so glad to meet you"; "I know how difficult this is for you"; "This treatment has excellent results") experienced, or perceived, significant results. Suffice it to say I would fully expect to find that dynamic prevalent among relationships between clients and their hypnotists who present themselves as friendly, charming and empathetic of the trials and tribulations of alien abduction.
|Injections reportedly induce stronger|
placebo effects than achieved via pills
On a related note, studies are suggesting – and the American Cancer Society indicates – that different means of delivering the placebo come with effects of varying value. An injection works better than a pill, for instance, and a big pill is more effective than a smaller pill.
A 2009 document released by the Department of Defense reported detainees at sites such as Guantanamo Bay were interrogated while drugged. In at least one circumstance, the DoD revealed, a detainee was the subject of a "deliberate ruse" in which interrogators injected him with what he was led to believe was "truth serum." The report also included reference to a 2002 meeting attended by Defense Intelligence Agency interrogation personnel and mental health specialists in which it was noted, "Truth serum; even though it may not actually work, it does have a placebo effect." A 2010 white paper subsequently published by the Physicians for Human Rights called for further investigation and suggested human experimentation was taking place.
I will be presenting more on these topics and several related areas of interest in an upcoming book. It is on track for completion and release in a few months.