Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hypnosis and Memory

 Excerpt from Chapter 2 of

by Jack Brewer

Because the risks of distortion vastly outweigh the chances of obtaining any useful information, forensic investigators and clinical practitioners should avoid hypnosis as a technique for enhancing recollection.
- John F. Kihlstrom, Ph.D., Hypnosis, memory and amnesia1

The American Psychological Association (APA) website informs us that “hypnosis is a therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds.”It is further explained that the activity is controversial yet accepted by most clinicians as a powerful and therapeutic treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including pain, bad habits and more. The APA reports that reaching a decision to use hypnosis should only be made in consultation with a qualified health care provider trained in the use and limitations of clinical hypnosis.Please note that the organization does not describe hypnosis as something recommended for amateur practice, does not claim it to be a reliable aid for retrieving suppressed memories and therefore obviously does not endorse its use as an investigative tool for writers seeking fantastic stories of alien abduction.

The Greys Have Been Framed
by Jack Brewer
As a matter of fact, hypnosis and the induction of nonordinary states of consciousness are typically viewed entirely differently among mental health professionals than members of the UFO community. Regressive hypnosis is but a single and increasingly obscure aspect of the overall hypnosis topic, albeit probably the first to come to mind among many UFO enthusiasts when the subject arises.

Non-ordinary states of consciousness are induced during many types of therapeutic activities, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, which may be employed during the treatment of emotional trauma, for example. Such procedures are most certainly not intended for the resulting mental imagery to be definitively accepted as representations of objective reality.

Quoted in a 2011 article, Hypnosis today, published by the APA, psychologist Dr. Michael Yapko stated that people do not really understand the suggestibility of memory.4 A fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, Yapko described how hypnosis took a public relations hit in the 1990's. Therapists unwisely used hypnotic regression to supposedly assist their patients in uncovering suppressed memories of childhood abuse, resulting in hundreds of court cases consisting of false accusations made against innocent people. Yapko added that the entire regressive hypnosis issue subsequently fell by the wayside due to advances in research.

Dr. Joseph P. Green was quoted in the same APA article. A psychology professor at Ohio State University at Lima, Green's research demonstrated that hypnotic suggestions produced false and distorted memories. Adding to the mounting problems for proponents of hypnotic regression, which include many researchers of alleged alien abduction, Green found that hypnosis subjects had tendencies to incorrectly believe their hypnotically induced (and conclusively false) memories were even more reliable than those consciously recalled. Subjects argued the validity of the hypnotically induced memories even after they were informed of their inaccuracy. Such circumstances led Green to explain that hypnosis as a memory retrieval technique was “on thin ice,” regardless of the lingering and completely mistaken cultural belief that it acted as a truth serum.

If you're wondering why no one told the UFO community, they did. Lots of times. The pro-hypnotic regression segment of the community just refused to listen, which included leaders of nonprofit corporations questionably claiming to be committed to scientific investigation. In spite of such claims, many UFO-related organizations chronically provide venues for presenters who practice regressive hypnosis and promote the resulting fantastic stories as credible interpretations of reality.

Detrimental aspects of hypnosis became apparent to the American Medical Association (AMA), and not just as a memory enhancer, but across the board. The ill advised use of regressive hypnosis employed by therapists during the 1990's and the bull in a china shop tactics taken by ufology hypnotists certainly did not contribute positively to the AMA assessment. The American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association reported that the AMA served notice in recent years to inform its membership it is not appropriate to state that the AMA recognizes or endorses hypnosis for any purpose.

“The AMA objects to the use of its name in connection with hypnosis,” the notice further clarified.

False Memories

If a person wanted to learn what the professional research community has discovered about memory, the work of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus should be on their reading list. The award-winning experimental psychologist is a recognized leading expert in her field. She has conducted hundreds of experiments spanning decades that conclusively demonstrate the lack of reliability of memories and witness testimony.6 The manners witnesses are questioned affects their perceptions of past events, Loftus verified, which carries significant implications to many professions and social dynamics, most certainly including investigations of alleged alien abduction and UFOs. The research of Elizabeth Loftus should be considered of great importance to the UFO community, as is apparently the case with the Central Intelligence Agency, which featured Dr. Loftus at a 2015 TEDx conference held at the Agency's Langley campus, the contents of which were classified.7

Loftus has demonstrated that details of supposed memories and entire events contained therein may be incorrectly perceived that have no basis in objective reality. Memory is not a solid data base that remains in tact, but a complex, changing mental landscape which is subject to virtually infinite conditions. Both
incorrect and relatively actual memories tend to be embellished over time, and resulting perceptions, accurate or not, influence future behavior.

Loftus could identify no cogent scientific support indicating that forgotten experiences or suppressed memories could consistently be recalled through the use of special techniques, or that such techniques provided reliable results.What's more, she found there is ample reason to believe that suggestive and prolonged searches for hidden memories could be harmful.

In early 2015, Loftus and colleagues published results of their first of its kind research on connections between sleep deprivation and susceptibility to false memories, which they reported could have “dire consequences.”The implications were significant to the use of sleep deprivation as a technique to enhance interrogation of prisoners and incarcerated individuals.

More on false memories and people being affected, or led, by the ways questions are constructed and posed was reported in 2015 by the Association for Psychological Science.10 Research subjects at the University of Bedfordshire were convinced within a few hours they had committed crimes that actually never happened. A study found that confessions to crimes can be surprisingly easy to generate and that the resulting false memories can have the same kinds of complex details as real memories. All participants needed to generate a richly detailed false memory, psychologist and lead researcher Dr. Julia Shaw explained, was three hours in a friendly interview environment, the introduction of a few wrong details and the use of some poor memory retrieval techniques. Bells should be ringing with those familiar with investigative techniques practiced by ufology hypnotists.

University of Bedfordshire,
Bedford Campus
Bedfordshire researchers were surprised to discover the extents subjects were influenced when provided with accurate information accompanied by inaccurate information, and then encouraged to fill in more detail. False recollections were readily generated to the point of participants reenacting crimes they never committed.

Further considerations were provided by researchers at Macquarie University. They conducted a project in which hypnosis was used to temporarily create delusional beliefs in otherwise non-delusional people. Science Daily reported on the project in its 2008 article, Hypnosis: The Key to Unlocking the Delusional Mind?.11 The study was fascinating and might very well be contemplated in the context of problems with subjecting alleged alien abductees to hypnotic regression.

Hypnosis was used to study delusions because they share so many characteristics, researchers explained. Both involve distortions in reality, for instance, and in both cases the distortions tend to be believed with conviction by those who experience them.

Research subjects were hypnotized and given one of three suggestions used to create a delusion. Results indicated the “hypnotic suggestion created a credible, compelling delusion.”

To what extent? Some participants became unable to recognize their own reflections in a mirror. In order for researchers to learn more about a condition known as mirrored-self misidentification, subjects were given hypnotic suggestions to see strangers in the mirror. The suggestions worked.


1 National Center for Biotechnology Information: Hypnosis, memory and amnesia

2 American Psychological Association: Hypnosis

3 American Psychological Association: Hypnosis Today: Looking beyond the media portrayal

4 American Psychological Association: Hypnosis today

5 American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association: Important Notice Regarding
Hypnosis and the American Medical Association 

6 University of California at Irvine: Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology

7 The Huffington Post: Even The CIA Likes TED Talks, But Only Secret Ones

8 Cogprints: Memory Distortion and False Memory Creation

9 Social Science Research Network: Sleep Deprivation and False Memories

10 Association for Psychological Science: People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened

11 Science Daily: Hypnosis: The Key to Unlocking the Delusional Mind?


  1. I am seriously looking for a hypnosis therapist, so that I may uncover/find out (once and for all) whether I had an alien contact in my bedroom, a few years ago, following the sighting of a strange multicolored (green/red) basketball size object hovering in my building's courtyard. I would greatly appreciate a referral to an inexpensive certified therapist of this genre in New York City (preferably in Manhattan) - thank you

  2. Kindly send me the requested information via e-mail

  3. Hello, Amadeu Macedo,

    I empathize. However, using hypnosis to try to clarify the past will not uncover once and for all what happened, but puts a person at high risk of confusing the issues even further. See the links in the above blog post.