Orne, M. T. The potential uses of hypnosis in interrogation. In A. D. Biderman & H. Zimmer (Eds.), The manipulation of human behavior. New York: Wiley, 1961. Pp.169-215.

The potential uses of hypnosis in interrogation



Through the years some lay and professional people have considered hypnosis almost a magical means of influencing others, curative, mystical, bordering on the supernatural. This has been so largely because the phenomenon of hypnosis seems to allow for a high degree of control of the subject's behavior. However, over the years, too, evidence has been accruing to suggest that hypnosis is neither fraudulent as some have maintained nor is it so mysterious as to defy experimental analysis.

Because of the apparent control of behavior during hypnosis it has understandably been proposed as a tool for interrogation. This chapter aims to evaluate these proposals. There is an utter dearth of literature concerning the actual use of hypnosis in interrogation. Either this technique has never been used, or if it has, no one has chosen to discuss it in print. Despite fairly extensive conversations with experts from a variety of countries, the author has found no one who admits to familiarity with its use in interrogation. An approximation to such usage, however, does exist in isolated instances with criminal suspects.

Since there is no direct evidence on this problem, it becomes necessary to analyze the issues and separately evaluate each question.

This paper is based in part upon work under a grant from the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, Inc.



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In this way a considerable number of inferences may be made regarding the utility of hypnosis for interrogation.

This report will first consider the potential use of hypnosis in the interrogation of captured personnel. Three separate issues are involved here: (a) Can hypnosis be induced under conditions of interrogation? (b) If this is possible, then can a subject be compelled to reveal information? (c) If information is so obtained, how accurate will it be?

The second section will consider proposals advanced for the defensive uses of hypnosis, the problem being the feasibility of protecting personnel from enemy interrogation. Three suggestions will be evaluated: (a) the use of posthypnotic suggestions to prevent subsequent trance-induction; (b) the use of posthypnotic suggestions to induce amnesia on capture for sensitive information; and (c) the use of posthypnotic suggestions to make captured personnel more resistant to stress.

In the final section a distinction will be drawn between what the hypnotic trance per se can accomplish and what the hypnotic situation as a social event may make possible.

Some Theoretical Views

Before discussing the possible use of hypnosis for interrogation, we should like to review briefly what is known about the nature of the state itself. Mere description of the subject's overt behavior is an inadequate definition of hypnosis. He is usually described as passive, apparently asleep, and responsive only to the hypnotist's words. It is true that in the absence of specific suggestions to the contrary the subject seems to be extremely passive and to become unusually dependent upon the hypnotist for direction. However, an individual in hypnosis may also appear to be fully awake. No reliable objective criteria have yet been developed which will unequivocally identify the hypnotic state. This is particularly true in regard to physiological criteria. In the absence of reliable objective criteria, it becomes necessary to describe hypnosis in terms of the subjective events which the hypnotized individual experiences. The cardinal characteristic of the state is that a potentiality exists for the subject's perception of reality to be distorted in accordance with the hypnotist's cues. This distortion may affect any and all modalities of perception in regard to both external and internal events. Although this distortion of reality may be extremely real to the subject and his


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behavior appropriate to it, considerable evidence suggests that at some level the individual continues to remain aware of the world as it really exists. Another attribute of the hypnotic state is that the subject experiences it as discontinuous from his normal waking experience. In association with this, amnesia for the experience may spontaneously occur. Finally, the subject generally experiences some compulsion to comply with the hypnotist's requests, along with a striking disinclination even to wish resisting them.

It is inappropriate in this context to review in detail the many theories proposed to account for the clinical observations. We shall briefly consider some of the theoretical views most generally held, since their implications differ markedly regarding the degree to which the state increases the susceptibility of a person to purposeful influence.

Primarily of historical interest are the views of Mesmer (13) and his later followers, who held that hypnosis, or the Mesmeric trance, results from a flow from the hypnotist to the subject of a force called animal magnetism. This view is important because it is the basis of the lingering lay opinion that hypnosis is in some way an overpowering of a weak mind by a superior intellect. There is no present-day investigator who would defend this position, and in fact it is contradicted by recent evidence.

Since the time of Braid (14) in 1843, the view has been widely held that hypnosis is a state of artificially induced sleep. More recently, Pavlov (56) proposed a similar view when he maintained that cortical inhibition, sleep, and hypnosis are essentially identical. This view is currently held throughout those parts of the world where Pavlovian theory is accepted as a creed. This position implies that hypnosis is a state characterized by a profound neurophysiological alteration and that the subject in trance is somehow passively compelled to respond when appropriate suggestions are given. To the American investigator there appears to be overwhelming experimental evidence against this view. For example, Bass (4) has shown that the patellar reflex, which disappears in sleep, is not diminished in hypnosis. Wells (78) et al. have demonstrated that all hypnotic phenomena can be elicited in a state that in no way resembles sleep, which would lead one to hypothesize that the sleeplike aspect of hypnosis is not intrinsic to the state itself but is rather a result of the suggestion that the subject go to sleep. Barker and Burgwin (3) have shown that the EEG changes characteristic of sleep do not occur in hypnosis, although a true sleep may be induced hypnotically. However, there are two Russian papers (50) which contradict these findings, claiming that the characteristic rhythm of hypnosis resem-


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bles that of drowsiness and light sleep. These studies have not been replicated.

The view proposed by Janet, Prince, Sidis, Corot, etc., which was current at the turn of the century, maintains that hypnosis is a state of temporary dissociation analogous to that which occurs in hysteria. Although this position seems reasonable in view of the similarity of the two conditions, it tells us little about the actual nature of hypnosis. The implicit assumption of this theory -- that hypnosis is a sign of pathology -- is not generally accepted today.

The Nancy school, especially Bernheim (9), revolutionized thinking about the hypnotic state by introducing the concept of suggestion and suggestibility. This orientation has been supported most notably by Hull (32), who, in a major monograph on hypnosis, concluded that hypnosis is primarily a state of heightened suggestibility. These views focus upon a trait in the subject, suggestibility, which is heightened by hypnotic induction techniques. Hull also relates the phenomenon to a habit, insofar as it becomes increasingly easy for a subject to achieve a state of hypnosis once he has been able to do so. Although the concepts of suggestion and suggestibility provide a bridge between hypnosis and the normal waking state, they do not offer explanations of the causes of the state or of the ongoing processes of hypnosis.

Welch (77) has attempted to explain hypnosis and its induction by an ingenious application of conditioning theory, utilizing the concept of abstract conditioning. He has pointed out that trance induction proceeds from suggestions which are almost certain to take effect to those that are more likely to be resisted. Several suggestions for experimental testing of this theory have never been followed up.

In contrast to the foregoing views, which focus either on the hypnotist or on some trait of the subject, several more recent approaches have been concerned with the interaction between the subject and the hypnotist. Schilder (63), White (83), and Sarbin (61) have all in one way or another emphasized the social relationship which exists in the hypnotic situation and especially the needs of the subject in this context. Also, Kubie and Margolin (40) and Milton Erickson (20) have concentrated on the subject's psychodynamics as being most relevant to the induction of hypnosis. White's view (83) is perhaps the first major formulation of this kind, and it represents a major departure in thinking about the trance state. He emphasizes that hypnosis takes place because the subject wishes to play the role of the hypnotized subject as currently defined by the subject and the hypnotist. It should be noted that the concern is with the subject's


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wish to be hypnotized, and this motivation is considered of primary irnpoitance to the induction of hypnosis. All the theories of this group, which might be called the "motivational theories" of hypnosis, emphasize the subject's wish to be in a hypnotic trance. Although other concepts are of necessity evoked to explain various phenomena in hypnosis, the actual occurrence of the trance state is related to the wish of the subject to enter hypnosis. This writer is a proponent of this approach, and the critical comments in this report are undoubtedly colored by this viewpoint.

It is important to recognize that almost no experimental work has been done that would support the validity of these various theoretical views, although there is some evidence already mentioned which tends to refute some of them. The general acceptance of the motivational view is based on the clinical impression of both experimentalists and clinicians that it accounts best for the major portion of the clinical data.

Trance is commonly induced in situations where the subject is motivated a priori to cooperate with the hypnotist, for example, to obtain relief from suffering, to contribute to a scientific study, or (as in a stage performance) to become, temporarily at least, the center of attraction. Almost all the currently available knowledge about hypnosis has been derived from these situations, and it is well to keep in mind the source of these data when one attempts to evaluate the possible utility of hypnosis in situations differing from these.

There is a small body of evidence stemming from the criminal cases in which hypnosis has allegedly played a role, which are radically different from those where hypnosis is normally observed. Because these situations may be more relevant to the questions of hypnosis in interrogation, this body of knowledge deserves particular attention and is discussed subsequently.

Hypnosis in the Interrogation Situation

The Induction of Hypnosis

The initial problem in utilizing hypnosis for interrogation is to induce trance. It is to be expected that if the subject wishes to withhold information he will not wish to enter hypnosis. Therefore, hypnosis must either be induced against the subject's will or without his awareness. A common conception of hypnosis holds that it may be induced without any prior relationship between subject and


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hypnotist and regardless of the subject's needs in the situation, with only the hypnotist suddenly gazing at his victim and commanding him to fall asleep. A motivational view of hypnosis would hold that trance induction depends upon the subject's needs of the moment and his expectation that the hypnotic relationship is to fulfill them. In this section we will evaluate trance induction procedures from the viewpoint of their dependence upon a positive relationship between subject and hypnotist and the subject's wish to cooperate.


There are three situations in which hypnosis has been reported to have been induced without the subject's awareness. In the first, hypnosis is induced while the subject is asleep. Another arises when the subject is seeking psychiatric help and hypnosis is induced in the course of a clinical interview with no explicit mention of the process. The third situation involves a trance spontaneously entered by individuals who are observing trance induction in another subject.

1. Sleep. The older literature is replete with statements that hypnosis may readily be induced by giving suggestions to sleeping subjects in a low but insistent voice; the subject becomes gradually more responsive to the suggestions until eventually he enters a somnambulistic state of hypnosis [Bernheim (9), Braid (14), Binet and Fere (12), etc.]. Unfortunately, there are no cases given to support these statements. As so often the case in hypnosis literature, the statements appear to have been carried over from one textbook to another without any critical evaluation.

In a recent study by Theodore X. Barber (2) sleeping subjects were requested to perform standard hypnotic tasks. He found considerable similarity between compliance to suggestions given during sleep and reactions to customary hypnotic techniques. It should be pointed out that, in his study, Barber requested permission from the subjects to enter their rooms at night and talk to them in their sleep. Several of them remarked that this was hypnosis, and one may reasonably assume that most, if not all, of the subjects perceived that trance induction was the purpose of the study. This study, therefore, tells us little about what would happen if a truly naive sleeping subject were exposed to such a situation. No investigation is available on this point. Casual experimentation by the author failed to demonstrate the feasibility of this technique. The sample consisted of only four subjects, three of whom awakened to ask belligerently what was taking place, whereas the fourth continued to sleep.


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Perhaps as in sleep learning (which seems to be effective only in a twilight state), response to suggestion may be obtained only in a receptive subject who has agreed to participate in the study and who is neither deeply asleep nor fully awake. Whether any increase in suggestibility over the normal waking state occurs has never been established.

2. Rhythmic, Repetitive Stimulation. Many trance induction techniques utilize the fixation of the subject's attention on a rhythmic, repetitive stimulus. Thus, metronomes, rotating spirals, mirrors, and swinging pendulums (75) [even the subject's own breathing (39)] have been used to induce hypnosis. In another context, the trance phenomena seen among primitive people frequently occur in ceremonies involving prolonged stimulation by rhythmic drums. Many authors have emphasized the importance of monotonous rhythmic verbal suggestions, especially during the induction stage of hypnosis. Recently, Kroger and Schneider (38) have proposed the use of an electronic aid which gives a repetitive signal approximating the alpha range of ten cycles per second as an adjunct. It is not clear whether these techniques directly facilitate hypnosis or whether they tend to produce a state of drowsiness that is interpreted by the subject as "I'm responding to hypnosis" which, in turn, facilitates further responses to suggestions. Certainly, the use of such techniques or even of monotonous rhythmic speech is by no means necessary in order to induce hypnosis.

All sophisticated discussions of hypnotic trance induction recognize that a successful response to a suggestion will facilitate further successful responses to suggestions. Even early descriptions of eye fixation advise the hypnotist to wait until the subject begins to show signs of fatigue and only then begin to give suggestions to the effect that the subject's eyes are growing heavy. Ideally, the hypnotist times these suggestions to occur immediately preceding the time when the subject begins to experience heaviness. Thus he takes the credit for having induced the state of drowsiness that is an inevitable consequence of eye fixation. Mechanical aids of this type may facilitate induction only to the extent that they bring about an event that is attributed to the suggestive effect of the hypnotist. However, it is also possible, as some of the proponents of these techniques suggest, that a neurophysiological basis exists for the facilitation of hypnosis. In this context it is relevant that road hypnosis and the break-off phenomenon encountered by pilots occurs in individuals subjected to peculiar types of repetitive, rhythmic stimulation despite a high


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motivation to retain alertness. An intriguing question on which no evidence exists is the relationship of hypnotizability and susceptibility to road hypnosis or the break-off phenomenon. Furthermore, in the context of this discussion, the utilization of rhythmic stimuli as aids to trance induction is particularly relevant insofar as being subjected to such stimulation does not require the individual's cooperation. Whether an actual relationship exists between the drowsiness which can thus be induced and hypnosis is highly questionable and remains to be investigated. What is a somewhat more likely possibility is that drowsiness may be induced even in the uncooperative subject which may be attributed to some hypnotic influences. This would then tend to make the subject more liable to respond to other suggestions. Clearly, it is an area that might fruitfully be explored. No investigation utilizing such procedures in recalcitrant subjects has been made. In a later section on "magic room" techniques, the implications of using this and related tools are explored.

3. In a Therapeutic Relationship. Studies by Adler and Secunda (1), Sargant and Fraser (62), Schneck (65), and Rosen (59) have used techniques of trance induction which were aimed at preventing the subject from knowing that he was being hypnotized. These techniques all depended upon the subject's desire to obtain help with his problems from a therapist. It is frequently possible to utilize the therapeutic situation in such a manner as to achieve a hypnotic state eventually. For example, the therapist may talk to the patient about relaxing, and the virtues of relaxing, or the virtues of concentrating, thus obtaining his fixation on one particular object. He may suggest that the patient will be more comfortable if he closes his eyes, that in this way the patient can relax more or concentrate better. Thus, in a suitable subject a deep level of hypnotic trance can be achieved in a relatively brief period of time without ever using the term hypnosis and without the subject ever being aware that hypnosis is taking place. Meares (46) uses the neurological examination in this fashion as a test for hypnotizability.

In all the instances cited it must be emphasized that although the subject does not explicitly consent to enter hypnosis, a relationship of trust and confidence exists in which the subject has reason to expect help from the hypnotist. Furthermore, the hypnotist is an individual of high reputation and high prestige and there is some legitimacy in the subject's expectations. Standard medical practice includes many maneuvers by the physician which are essentially meaningless rituals to the average patient, and to which the patient


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complies without hesitation because it is assumed by him that this will eventually benefit him. These situations, despite their outward similarity, differ greatly from those where trance induction is attempted by a stranger, without the subject's knowledge or consent.

4. Spontaneous Trance. Subjects who observe hypnosis in a demonstration may spontaneously enter trance. An experience of the author's concerning a psychotherapy patient with whom hypnosis had been used may be cited as an example. The author appeared on an educational television program where he demonstrated various hypnotic phenomena with several subjects. The patient watched the program in a friend's home. She reported that when the author induced trance in the subjects, she went into a trance, coming out of it when the author terminated trance in the television subjects. Spontaneous hypnosis occurred despite the fact that its appearance was a source of embarrassment to the patient since she was in the company of friends.

It is fairly easy to maximize the probability of this occurrence by mentioning the possibility of this phenomenon and conveying one's expectation that this may happen. Here again we are dealing with subjects who are essentially in sympathy with the purposes of trance induction in a situation which is viewed as safe by the individual entering trance. Again, no conclusions can be drawn as to the feasibility of inducing trance empathically in a subject who does not wish to enter trance. It has been noted clinically that individuals who have negative attitudes about hypnosis do not enter hypnosis under these circumstances. White's (86) study, in which he has demonstrated that subject's attitudes about hypnosis, as shown on the TAT, are predictive of their hypnotizability, is relevant here.


We have been able to uncover only three studies that experimentally test whether a subject can resist the induction of hypnosis. Wells (80) instructed his subject to fight actively against trance induction -- the subject was unable to resist. It should be mentioned that this subject had been previously hypnotized by Wells. This study was replicated by Brenman (16) who arrived at the same conclusions.

An even more dramatic experiment is reported by Watkins (74), again dealing with a subject who had previously been hypnotized by the experimenter. A nurse, who was known as a good subject, voiced the opinion to Watkins that under no circumstances could she be hypnotized against her will. He took the challenge and they set up


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an experiment. Another nurse and a female psychiatrist were asked to witness the experiment. A dollar bill was placed in front of the subject and she was told that she could keep it if she did not enter trance. However, Watkins is careful to point out that this was a matter of prestige, not of monetary remuneration. Since no restrictions were placed on the subject, she closed her eyes, plugged her ears, talked and shouted. Watkins, speaking close to her ear, suggested that she would feel a pain in her head which would grow stronger and stronger, and that the only relief she would find would be to enter a deep sleep. The subject paused at times, removed her fingers from her ears to hold her head, and said that her head hurt. After six minutes she stopped shouting, tossed the dollar bill at the experimenter, and said, "Here, take it," and went into trance.

In determining the significance of these experiments, we feel that the "demand characteristics" of the situation are relevant. Demand characteristics are defined as those aspects of the experimental situation which implicitly convey the hypothesis of the experimenter to the subject. The author, in another publication (52), has shown that the demand characteristics of an experimental situation may greatly influence a subject's hypnotic behavior. It is clear that at some level a cooperative subject wishes an experiment to "work out," i.e., to help fulfill the experimenter's expectations. If a subject grasps the purpose of the experiment and/or the bias of the experimenter, he is disposed toward producing, behavior which will confirm the experimenter's hypothesis. This is particularly true in a hypnotic relationship.

In all three studies, the subject had previous trance experiences with the hypnotist, which, we may assume, initiated a positive relationship between the subject and hypnotist. Although the subject was instructed to resist entering hypnosis, it was in the context of participating in an experiment to test this issue. It seems possible that in all three cases the subject was responding as if the experimenter were implicitly asking the subject to collaborate with him in order to demonstrate that trance could be induced despite the subject's resistance. The subject's motivation in this situation may be conceptualized as: (a) the overt attitude of resistance requested during the experiment and (b) the more fundamental attitude of cooperation to show that trance can be induced against a subject's will. In our view, the latter attitude was more relevant in determining the subject's behavior.

The author feels that, because of the preceding objections, these three studies offer no conclusive evidence regarding the question of


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the possibility of inducing trance in a resistant subject who has been previously hypnotized. An experimental situation designed to test this question would have to take two variables into account: (a) the usually positive relationship between subject and hypnotist and (b) the demand characteristics of the situation. These two factors are necessary since in the setting of interrogation the aims of subject and hypnotist are apt to be at variance. One possible experimental design might involve two experimenters: one with whom the subject has a positive relationship, and the hypnotist with whom he does not. It should somehow be conveyed to the subject that the experimenter with whom he has the positive relationship believes (or hypothesizes) that the subject will be able to refrain from entering trance. Under these circumstances, we hypothesize that the hypnotist will be unable to induce trance in the resisting subject. We further assume that if the hypnotist is able to create a positive relationship, he would then be successful. In other words, whether a subject will or will not enter trance depends upon his relationship with the hypnotist rather than upon the technical procedure of trance induction. Admittedly, these predictions are based on extremely subtle phenomena. A test of these hypotheses would necessitate observers trained in evaluating nuances of feelings in order to be able to judge the nature of the relationship between subject and hypnotist. It is imperative that this factor be controlled if we are to draw any valid conclusions about an interrogation situation, since a positive relationship may come into existence only after it has been carefully nurtured.

The same kind of situation could be utilized in studying the induction of trance in resistant subjects who have never before been hypnotized. No data are available on this question. However, the problem is identical to the one discussed above except, perhaps, that additional resistances would be encountered.


In summarizing the evidence we are led to the conclusion that despite many apparent indications that hypnosis can be induced without the subject's knowledge or consent, all these situations seem to depend upon a positive relationship between subject and hypnotist. The most favorable of these situations occur when the subject (a) expects to derive benefit from his association with the hypnotist and (b) has trust and confidence in the hypnotist's ability to help. No reliable evidence exists that hypnosis can be induced directly from sleep in an unaware subject, nor is there good evidence that a subject is unable to resist trance induction if thoroughly motivated


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to do so. An unexplored area relevant to this problem is the relationship of rhythmic stimulation and environmentally induced states of fatigue to suggestibility. It is also suggested that the question of whether hypnosis can be induced against the subject's will can be tested only by experiments that control the relationship between subject and hypnotist. In a study that utilized a hypnotist unknown to the subject and where the structure of the total situation was clear to the subject that it was desired and expected that he be able to resist hypnosis, current theory and clinical data lead us to expect negative results. No studies of this kind have been done, however.

The Degree of Behavioral Control Which Hypnosis Makes Possible

Assuming an interrogator were able to circumvent the technical obstacles and induce hypnosis in a subject who wants to withhold information, to what extent would the subject remain master of his fate, even in deep trance? This is an area where wide disagreements prevail among authorities and where experimental evidence is highly contradictory.

Throughout this discussion no differentiation will be made between behavior that results from direct suggestion and that induced posthypnotically. Erickson and Erickson (21) maintain that posthypnotic behavior is performed in a self-limited hypnotic state. All phenomena elicited by means of posthypnotic suggestions may also be seen in trance, although the reverse is not always true. In line with Erickson and Erickson, we feel that the subject carrying out posthypnotic suggestions is in an hypnotic trance state, although at times a less intense one. The difference between the two states, if any, seems to be a difference in degree rather than kind.

Young (84) reports that subjects resist specific hypnotic suggestions if they have decided in advance to do so. Wells (79), on the other hand, reports contrary data. He found that none of his subjects was able to resist the predicted command or, indeed, any other. This contradiction exemplifies the controversial nature of the question of behavioral control in hypnosis. The problem has generally focused on the more specific question of whether a person can be induced through hypnosis to violate major social prohibitions which he has internalized or to commit some self-destructive act. It is the usual practice to use the term "antisocial acts" to refer to such behavior, but in this chapter terms more descriptive of the subjective significance of the act for the person are preferred.


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Behavior Violating Internalized Prohibitions

The question is usually phrased in terms of whether an individual will commit antisocial or self-destructive acts in response to direct suggestion. Behavior considered to be antisocial is that which is so defined by the culture in which the individual has been raised. However, the question is complicated by the fact that some behavior is defined as antisocial in one context and as socially required in another, for example, murder vs. the soldier's obligation to fight. One of the major research difficulties is that some behaviors are considered taboo under normal circumstances, whereas they are felt to be legitimized in an experimental setting. The extent to which behavior is legitimized in this manner will depend largely on the subject's orientation both to the behavior in question and toward experimentation. All the material in the following discussion must be viewed in terms of the major difficulty of creating a situation which is contrary to the individual's internalized controls and which cannot be legitimized by the situation in which it is tested. Heron (31), Kline (35), Marcuse (43), Weitzenhoffer (76), etc., have discussed the problem of definition in evaluating the literature on hypnotically induced antisocial behavior.

The early view in this controversy over the elicitation of "antisocial" behavior, which answered the question in the negative, had been generally accepted until recently. Still, such classic authors as Forel (23) and Moll (48) believe that hypnosis is potentially capable of allowing sexual assault.


Supporting the negative view is the classic experiment reported by Janet (34). He asked a deeply hypnotized female before a distinguished group of judges and magistrates to stab people with rubber daggers, to poison them with sugar tablets, and in this fashion to commit several "murders," all of which she did without hesitation. As the company dispersed, the subject was left in charge of some of the younger assistants who, intending to end the experiments on a lighter note, suggested to the subject that she was alone and would undress. This promptly caused her to awaken. It should be noted that the "murders" were committed in such a way as to be play acted, whereas undressing would have certainly been real to the subject. In this classic instance, at least, she had no difficulty in discerning the difference. If, then, hypnotic subjects do not lose contact with the


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"real" situation, can they be induced to violate internalized prohibitions? Several modern investigators claim that this is indeed possible.

Wells (80), in an experimental demonstration, induced a subject by means of a posthypnotic suggestion to take a dollar bill from the hypnotist's coat which was hanging on the wall and to accept it as his own money. Thus, in effect, the subject stole a dollar bill. The subject was unaware of this "crime" and denied vehemently that he had committed it. Wells maintains that failures to induce a subject to commit certain acts do not negate this possibility since the subject may not have been hypnotized deeply enough or improper techniques may have been used; whereas even one success demonstrates the possibility of achieving this result.

Brenman (16) conducted a series of experiments involving minor aberrant and self-injurious acts. Thus, in repeating the Wells study, she had a subject remember falsely that she had taken $2 instead of $1. The subject returned the $2 to the experimenter. She also was able to induce one subject to go through other people's pocketbooks, and to have another subject insult an acquaintance.

Schneck and Watkins in two separate reports cite evidence that behavior ordinarily constituting a crime can be produced by hypnosis. Both these reports deal with military situations. Schneck (64) inadvertently caused a soldier to commit a military offense by carrying out a posthypnotic suggestion and thus deserting his duty. It must be remarked, however, that Schneck himself was a medical officer in the army at the time he was conducting this experiment. Although the soldier may have neglected his duty, it was implicitly at the order of the medical officer and Schneck later made certain that no harm came to the soldier because of his military offense.

Watkins' (73) experiments, also conducted in this setting, are of particular relevance to us. Watkins induced a soldier to strike a superior officer by suggesting that the officer was a Japanese soldier and, according to the report, the soldier had to be restrained from inflicting serious injury to his officer. In another more relevant instance, Watkins was able to obtain information from a WAC under hypnosis which she had previously said she would not reveal and which was classified SECRET. The experimental demonstration took place before a professional group. Before the induction of hypnosis the WAC was asked how she would respond to interrogation by the enemy; she replied that she would reveal only her name and serial number. The hypnotist asked the subject to pretend that he was a German military intelligence officer and then proceeded to induct


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trance. When the WAC was in hypnosis he represented himself as her First Sergeant and proceeded to question her about classified matters. She answered all of his queries, whereupon an officer stopped the proceedings "in the interest of military security."

Although these demonstrations appear convincing, they are open to the criticism that Watkins was an Army officer and although offenses were apparently committed, no serious damage could possibly result in this setting. At some level, at least, the individuals in question must have been aware of this fact.

A different type of experimental situation was constructed by Rowland (60) and also by Young (86). Two experiments were performed; one required that the subject throw acid at a research assistant, the other that he pick up a rattlesnake. Rowland's original experiments employed an invisible glass which protected the research assistant from the acid, and an invisible wire screen which prevented the subjects from picking up the rattlesnake. Although there were only two subjects in each experiment, all four carried out the hypnotist's commands. No attempt was made to conceal the fact that, in one case, this was a highly corrosive acid, and in the other, that this was a poisonous snake.

Young (86) slightly changed the conditions of the experiment by using a harmless snake which looked almost identical with a water moccasin and replacing the acid with tinted water while the subject was not looking, thus obviating the need for screens or invisible glass which might be perceived by the subject. The similarity of the colored water to the acid was dramatically shown by the fact that in one instance the experimenters themselves became confused and acid was thrown at the research. assistant, necessitating the immediate use of first aid. Again the subjects performed both the homicidal and the self-destructive acts in the laboratory. Both experimenters report that normal control subjects in the waking state refused to pick up the rattlesnake or throw the acid when requested to do so.

Although these experiments seem to be extremely convincing, we must take into account the setting in which they were conducted. All the situations were clearly experimental ones, and were perceived as such by the subjects. The hypnotists who request the homicidal or self-destructive behavior are known to the subjects as reputable men. It is highly probable that the subjects, at some level, were convinced that in the experimental situation no serious harm would be permitted to come to anyone. This kind of situation is similar to that of a stage magician who asks a volunteer from the audience to cut off some individual's head with a guillotine which has been


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convincingly demonstrated. Under these conditions volunteers from the audience will readily trip the appropriate lever. This could be be construed to be a homicidal act were it not for the fact that the volunteer from the audience knows full well that some kind of trick is operating that will prevent any harm from occurring, even though he cannot see the mechanism of the trick or know how it works. The question may be raised why control subjects in the waking state refused to perform these acts. One wonders whether the expectation that they ought not to do this was somehow communicated to them. Ways in which these objections might be met experimentally are discussed later.

By far the most sophisticated attempt to deal with this problem of the possible recognition of the situation as unreal has been undertaken by Kline (35). Unfortunately, only one subject was involved. He performed an antisocial act, however, which was "not only antisocial but punishable by law." Furthermore, while the subject had agreed to participate in a study to test the legal implications of hypnosis, the act was undertaken in a setting outside of the laboratory which was, to all intents and purposes, "real" (personal communication). The act, which is not detailed in the paper "for reasons of legality and recognizability," was clearly opposed to the internalized inhibitions of the subject. By most reasonable normative criteria, it would be viewed as highly objectionable. Four experimenters, competent hypnotists, failed in their attempts to induce the subject to perform the act. When the subject's perception of the reality situation was altered, however, he was willing to perform the action for three of the four experimenters. The experimenter for whom he refused revealed later that she herself was upset by the nature of the requested act and by the deception. In a further experiment the subject was reassured that the action was all right but no perceptual alteration was used. Under these conditions he was willing to perform the action for only one of the experimenters. It was also possible to induce the subject to perform the act by first requesting him to visualize its performance before directly requesting the action.

This study is particularly interesting in that the subject was willing under some situations to perform an action for the experimenter with whom he had the best rapport but not for the others. He refused to perform this action in the waking state despite the experimenters' attempts at persuasion.

Probably the most convincing aspect of this study is that with varying conditions, all, some, or none of the experimenters could


185 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

induce the subject to perform the act. The limitations of the study are that only one subject was employed and that the subject was himself interested in investigating the legal implications of hypnosois. In this context it is interesting both that the subject had amnesia for his action and that after he was finally informed of his behavior he felt that the need to demonstrate the point made the experiment legitimate. Further investigation along this line, especially utilizing subjects less ego-involved in the purpose of the study, would seem necessary in order to draw a more definitive conclusion.

Speaking for the negative in this controversy is an experiment reported by Haupt (30). The subject was a student who was in hypnotherapy with Haupt. The posthypnotic suggestion was given that the student would, upon awakening, pick up Haupt's notebook, leaf through it, and read it. This is an action which the author feels the student would never have dared under normal circumstances. After waking, the student rose, went to the table, looked at the open notebook and asked: "Here you write your notes, don't you?" He made no attempt to pick it up or read it. When memory for the posthypnotic suggestion was restored, the student reported that he had felt a drive to read the notebook but restrained himself. Haupt observes that the subject's behavior was a compromise between the suggestion and what was socially acceptable and that since this minor infraction was not performed, it is not possible to induce more deviant behavior by means of hypnosis.

A fairly elaborate study by Erickson (19), reporting some thirty-six individual experiments, supports the view that violations of social prohibitions cannot be achieved in hypnosis. This study is open to question in view of the reported results in laboratory settings by others. Erickson is known to his subjects as a responsible investigator. The fact that he did not have any positive results would lead one to wonder if he did not implicitly convey his expectations of refusal. In view of the relationship between subject and hypnotist in both the Haupt and Erickson studies, it may be that the subject would act in accordance with the hypnotist's implicit expectations.

In a review of the literature on this subject Weitzenhoffer (75) attempts to reconcile the contradictory evidence on inducing socially prohibited behavior. He points out that attempts which have been successful are those in which the subject was given a hallucinated pseudo-situation which redefined the behavior as socially acceptable. An instance of this would be the Wells' (80) demonstration. He induced the subject to "steal" a dollar bill by being told it was his own money. Thus, from the subject's viewpoint he was no longer


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committing a transgression. Weitzenhoffer attributes failure to induce subjects to perform "antisocial" acts to those situations in which the subject perceives the transgressive nature of his behavior. This explanation, although seductive at first glance, does not appear to do justice to the literature. Erickson attempted in some instances to create this type of situation and obtained negative results. On the other hand, Schneck was unaware of the normative implications of his posthypnotic suggestion at the time it was given. Nor was there any attempt to disguise the dangerous nature of the situations in the Rowland or Young experiments.

It seems appropriate, in this context, to note that frequently subjects in hypnosis appear to show an increase of super-ego-type inhibitions. This has been pointed out by Gindes (27) and has been observed by the author. Bramwell (15) reports a case that clearly illustrates this point. A patient suffering from pulmonary disease was treated by hypnotic suggestion by her physician in the presence of a nurse. Before trance was terminated, the physician remembered that he had not examined the patient that week; and asked her to bare her chest so that he could examine her. Much to his amazement, the patient refused to do so despite the fact that this was a routine procedure to which she had never objected in the past. After the patient was awake, the physician again asked her and she permitted him to proceed with the examination without any objection. The nurse asked the patient sometime later why she had refused in hypnosis, and the patient expressed disbelief that she had done so. Under some circumstances, at least, behavior normally prohibited but appropriate to the situation will not be carried out in hypnosis. Apparently, under hypnosis the subject may interpret interpersonal motives and intentions differently from when they occur in the waking state.


To satisfy the requirements of an adequately controlled investigation of violations of internalized prohibitions in hypnosis, a number of conditions would have to be met. These have not been dealt with in any experimental study to date.

As has been pointed out previously, the experimental situation legitimizes much behavior which the subject, in other contexts, views as contrary to his internalized prohibitions. It is desirable to determine whether the behavior is also legitimized in the experimental setting by subjects who are not hypnotized. One way in which this can be determined economically is to utilize a control group of


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subjects who are highly motivated to simulate hypnosis in order to deceive the experimenter. If the experimenter is not aware that the subjects are simulating, he will treat them as he does real subjects. If these controls perform the antisocial act, we may assume that the experimental situation itself has legitimized behavior that appears to be antisocial. A refusal of the control subjects to perform the given action would lend support to the hypothesis that the behavior cannot be legitimized solely by the experimental situation.

An additional possibility must be considered. Abundant evidence exists that under some circumstances of social legitimization, individuals indulge in behavior that is ordinarily viewed as antisocial; for example, lynching behavior, or extreme exhibitionism and sexual license in association with drinking or marijuana. In some instances, hypnosis may provide the legitimization for behavior which the person wishes to perform but which he feels he cannot do under normal circumstances. It is not clear whether it is hypnosis per se or the hypnotic situation which is instrumental in the production of these acts. Clinical evaluation of each experimental subject thus becomes necessary for an understanding of the motivations involved.

If we assume that the subject, even in deep hypnosis, retains an awareness of his surroundings and at some level a grasp of the actual realities of the situation no matter how subjectively real his hallucinated environment is, it becomes necessary to take into account the total situation in order to evaluate the true meaning of the subject's behavior. Thus, no set of experiments which asks the subject to violate a social prohibition in a psychological laboratory of a university, and which is conducted by individuals known to be reputable investigators by the subject, can provide definitive answers. The only purpose for which a psychologist would ask a subject to throw acid at another individual would be to contribute to science or new knowledge. And even these aims would be precluded by a concern for the safety of the individuals involved. Thus the behavior, however antisocial on the surface, is not contrary to the subject's values in its total context.

A better test of the question would be an experiment performed by someone who is not known to be a university professor. For example, a carnival hypnotist might suggest to a subject obtained as a volunteer during a demonstration that he return after the performance. At that time during a reinduced trance he would suggest that he should rob the local jewelry store and bring him, the hypnotist, the stolen jewelry. This kind of an experiment would be psychologically totally different from anything which has ever been attempted in


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a laboratory. The following conditions would have been met: (a) the behavior would be in fact criminal, (b) the motive of the hypnotist would be clearly for personal or financial gain, (c) the hypnotist would not have a reputation as a serious responsible investigator, and (d) the relationship between the subject and the hypnotist is of brief duration and would not in itself in any way justify the type of action being undertaken by the subject for the hypnotist.

It is possible to approximate closely this type of situation in a college environment. Thus, a graduate student assistant might utilize a subject in an "unauthorized" trance-induction, and request that the subject enter one of the senior-professors' rooms and appropriate a Ph.D. examination paper, which the subject knows to be confronting the graduate student. The arrangements required to make this kind of a study feasible would be more practical and the test of the hypothesis almost as severe. "Simulating" hypnotic controls would be necessary to determine whether the situation is still perceived as experimental by the subject.


What appears to be more relevant for the subject of interrogation are those reported instances of criminal behavior that were allegedly induced by hypnotic means. Considerable interest has been expressed by the legal profession in this problem, and it has generally been held that a crime committed under hypnosis would be the responsibility of the hypnotist rather than that of the subject. For this reason the plea of hypnotic influence has at various times played a role in legal defense. There are a fair number of cases on record prior to 1900, particularly among the German-speaking peoples (29). Unfortunately, it is hard to evaluate these cases objectively at this late date. For the most part, they deal with sexual offenses and we must point out that hypnotic influence is often claimed to justify behavior which might have been quite desirable to the subject at the time of its occurrence. It has never been clearly demonstrated that hypnosis has played a significant role in these cases, and it seems in several instances that the relatives, rather than the subject, claimed hypnotic influence.

We will discuss briefly the three documented cases which have been reported within recent years in which hypnosis has allegedly played a role in criminal behavior. Each of these three cases was studied extensively by psychiatrists. One was studied by Walther Kroener (58), another by Ludwig Mayer (44), and the most recent case by Paul Reiter (58).


189 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

In the case he studied, Kroener reports that a sensitive, young, unmarried, male schoolteacher came under the hypnotic influence of a "friendly" neighbor. The relationship began with neighborly hospitality and proceeded to the point where, by means of hypnotic suggestion, the neighbor induced the schoolteacher to give or lend him small sums of money and goods. In order to test his power over the schoolteacher the hypnotist gave him a posthypnotic suggestion that he (the victim) would shoot himself in the left hand. The schoolteacher actually did shoot himself in his left elbow joint, subjectively perceiving the event as an accident. By means of a posthypnotic suggestion the hypnotist induced his victim to confess to crimes that the hypnotist had committed. Throughout the entire affair, which lasted for five years, the schoolteacher had no recollection of the hypnotic sessions. The schoolteacher was convicted, but began to suspect the nature of his relationship with his neighbor on the basis of a chance remark. After many appeals he was recommended for examination to Kroener, who eventually uncovered the true state of affairs by re-hypnotizing the schoolteacher and thereby causing him to remember all the hypnotic experiences with his neighbor.

The study by Mayer (44), usually called the Heidelberg case, involves a twenty-four-year-old housewife who was victimized by a man who posed as a doctor treating her. Ostensibly he systematically trained her in hypnosis for seven years. At first he swindled money from her under the pretense of curing her of various complaints which he himself had induced by hypnotic suggestion. Later, presumably by means of his hypnotic influence, he compelled her to have sexual relations with himself and with his friends. Also as a result of his suggestions she made six attempts on her husband's life and several attempts upon her own. The hypnotist was arrested and convicted despite his consistent plea of not guilty.

The third case, investigated by Reiter (58), deals with a man who was sentenced to prison for helping the Germans during the last war. At this time he was in an extremely depressed and disillusioned frame of mind. While in prison he met a man who especially fascinated him because of his apparent knowledge of religion, mysticism, and occultism. The two became friends and experimented extensively with Yoga and hypnotism. They were alone in the same cell for nearly eighteen months, besides being together in the workshop every day. After awhile, the hypnotist informed his victim that he (the hypnotist) was an instrument employed by the guardian spirit, and that the guardian spirit was speaking to the victim through the medium of the hypnotist. From that time on the victim felt that


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he had to carry out all the orders of the guardian spirit. After they were released from prison the men continued their relationship -- and the guardian spirit continued to make demands. The guardian spirit ordered his victim to turn over his wages to the hypnotist; he found a girl for the victim to marry and ordered him to do so, which he did; he ordered him to procure money in order to establish a political organization through which they could create a better society and unite the Scandinavian countries, the goal being the salvation of mankind. It was toward the latter end that the guardian spirit, through the medium of the hypnotist, pointed out the bank that the victim was to rob. The robbery was accomplished, and a year later orders came for another bank robbery. During the execution of this task the victim committed murder and was apprehended.

In all three cases a common element was present. In some manner the subject was dissatisfied and the individual who later became the hypnotist provided gratification. In the first case, the schoolteacher lived alone, and appeared somewhat isolated because of insufficient social contacts. The neighbor provided friendship and initially performed many minor services for him. In the Heidelberg case the subject initially met the hypnotist in a situation where he presented himself as a physician who could relieve a symptom that was causing her acute distress. The subject appeared to have had psychosomatic symptoms before contact with the hypnotist, which might have reflected tension in her marriage. Furthermore, the hypnotist appeared to be a sexually attractive psychopath and hypnosis may have provided the opportunity for the gratification of some of the victim's needs. In the last case the subject was dejected with intense feelings of worthlessness, as an aftermath of collaboration during the war. The hypnotist became a friend prior to the beginning of the hypnotic experiments. The intensity of this relationship can be inferred from the fact that the subject at the time began to feel considerably more comfortable. Thus, in each case the relationship between subject and hypnotist was such that the former derived need gratification from the association.

Frequently relationships exist between two individuals that have no connection with hypnosis but are marked by intense feelings and a strong tendency on the part of one individual to comply with whatever requests are made of him by the other. The transference relationship seen in psychotherapy is a case in point. If this type of relationship exists between two individuals, it would seem unnecessary to employ hypnosis to explain behavior on the part of one person which benefits the other. Only in the absence of this kind of pre-


191 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

existing relationship is it meaningful to speak of hypnosis as being a necessary prerequisite for the behavior.

Undoubtedly, hypnosis played some role in the cases we have discussed. However, if we are to make inferences from these data to the situation of hypnosis in interrogation it is necessary to keep in mind that the relationship between the interrogator and the subject is not often comparable to the long-term relationships which existed in the cases cited.


In summing up the evidence on behavior violating internalized prohibitions as it is applicable to an interrogation situation, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having no study available that is not vulnerable to serious criticism. The experimental laboratory studies suffer from the defects of a pseudo-reality situation where the "transgressive acts" cannot be defined as such in the context of the total situation, and from the defect of the mutually shared wishes and motives of experimenter and subject. The only three cases of criminal acts apparently involving hypnosis which are reliably reported in the recent literature all involve an intense emotional relationship between hypnotist and subject. Such a relationship may be difficult to establish in the interrogation situation. In the absence of meaningful evidence, any conclusions reached must be of a conjectural nature. Experimental tests of the question are feasible, but would require camouflage of the institutional responsibilities of the investigators. The author would postulate that only in rare interrogation subjects would a sufficiently deep trance be obtainable to even attempt to induce the subject to discuss material which he is unwilling to discuss in the waking state. The kind of information which can be obtained in those rare instances is still an unanswered question.

Recall and Accuracy of Information Obtained in Hypnosis

Despite the previously discussed technical problems, it may be possible for an interrogator to obtain information from a hypnotized subject. Also, a subject may willingly enter hypnosis. In either case the interrogator must evaluate the veridicality of the elicited material.

A great deal has been written, especially in the press, about the unfailing accuracy with which subjects in hypnosis will recall past events. Statements have frequently been made about individuals


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having perfect memory in hypnosis, about their ability to recall anything that has happened to them even while infants, and, according to some, even prior to birth (37).

Two separate issues have to be examined: (a) is the subject in hypnosis able to recall historically accurate information which he cannot remember in the waking state and (b) is information obtained from a subject in hypnosis necessarily accurate when it has been suggested to him that he cannot lie?

Is Information More Accessible to Recall Under Hypnosis?

A mechanism frequently used to facilitate recall is that of hypnotic age regression. The subject is "regressed" or taken back in time to the situations toward which recall is directed. For example, if a subject in deep hypnosis is given the suggestion that he is, let us say, six years old, he will begin to act, talk, and to some extent think in the manner of a six year old. He will hallucinate the appropriate environment and will give such details as the people sitting next to him in school, teachers' names, color of walls, etc. The subject's actions under these circumstances are exceedingly convincing, and it has frequently been assumed that an actual regression to the suggested age takes place, with many of its psychologic and physiologic components. It is often assumed that the information obtained under these circumstances is accurate.

Platonov and Prikhodivny (57) published two studies which claim to prove the reality of age regression by means of intelligence tests. One of the most striking studies is by Gidro-Frank and Bowers-Buch (25), who demonstrated that the infantile type of plantar response appeared in subjects who were regressed in age to approximately five months. Unfortunately they did not investigate whether the subjects were aware of the type of plantar response to be expected in infancy. The subject population included medical students and nurses, and it is reasonable to assume that they were not entirely naive. Single case studies which claim to demonstrate "real" age regression have been reported by a variety of investigators: Spiegel, Shor and Fishman (69), Schneck (66), Mercer and Gibson (47), LeCron (41), Bergman, Graham, and Leavitt (8), and Kline (36).

Despite these studies, which are based mostly on single cases, there is little evidence for the validity of hypnotic age regression. Young (85) in a study using a number of subjects has demonstrated that their performance on intelligence tests was not appropriate to their suggested age. Unhypnotized control subjects were more suc-


193 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

cessful in simulating their age than were subjects in deep hypnosis. There was no correlation between the apparent depth of hypnosis and the extent of regression.

Orne (51) conducted a study of hypnotic age regression in ten subjects employing the Rorschach test and drawing samples, and was able to demonstrate that, while some regressive elements appeared, it was clear that nonregressive elements were also present. Furthermore, the changes toward regression did not show any consistency from subject to subject. The drawing samples in age regression were evaluated by Karen Machover who characterized them as "sophisticated oversimplification." They did not resemble the drawings of six year olds. For one subject his drawings at age six were available, but there was not even a superficial resemblance. In this context it is particularly significant that subjects often gave their teacher's name with great conviction. Later inquiry disclosed that the names were inaccurate and did not refer to first grade teachers at all, but to the subjects' teachers at a much later time.

Finally, there are studies by True and Stephenson (72) and McCranie, Crasilneck, and Teter (45) who investigated EEG's taken during hypnotic age regression. Neither study demonstrated any change in the direction of a childhood EEG. It is also of interest that these studies do not report an increased heart rate (present in infants) nor changes in EKG tracings.

To summarize, the literature on hypnotic age regression fails to demonstrate that the phenomenon is anything more than an extremely convincing form of role-playing, as suggested by Sarbin (61), Young (85), and Orne (51). There is little evidence in any of these studies to indicate that recall for nonemotional material is significantly improved.

It is important for our purposes to distinguish between emotionally neutral material and emotionally charged events, which are subject to active forgetting or repression. There is abundant evidence that emotionally laden material that is not normally accessible can be recovered by hypnosis. Probably it is this phenomenon which has led to the erroneous assumption that all types of material may be recalled in this fashion.

Two specific studies deal with memory in hypnosis: Stalnaker and Riddle (70) asked subjects in hypnosis to recall the poem "The Village Blacksmith." At first glance, hypnosis appeared to increase their recall of the poem. Much of the apparent improvement was due to appropriate confabulation of poetic material in the manner of Longfellow. The significant point is that subjects in hypnotic


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trance show a marked tendency to confabulate with apparent verisimilitude. White, Fox, and Harris (82) demonstrated that hypnosis does not improve memory for recently learned material, but appears to improve memory for meaningful material, such as poetry, slightly. They do not make any statements about the accuracy of reproduction.

The Accuracy of Information Obtained in Hypnosis

Considerably less material is available about the veracity of the material furnished by a subject in hypnosis. As the preceding discussion indicates, subjects in deep hypnosis tend to confabulate in the direction of what they perceive to be expected of them. We should like to examine the extent to which subjects in hypnosis can purposely misrepresent material, although it has been suggested to them that they cannot do this. As we have already indicated, Young (84) has shown that subjects can resist specific suggestions if they have decided in advance that they will do so. Wells (79) had demonstrated the opposite. Earlier quoted comments on demand characteristics apply to both these studies. The issue remains to be resolved by an adequate empirical test.

Beigel (6, 7) reports three cases of hypnosis used in an effort to ascertain the facts in marriage counseling situations. In a personal communication, he maintains that people in hypnosis may lie, refuse to answer, or wake up when asked direct questions on sensitive matters. However, he claims to have successfully elicited information which subjects were reluctant to reveal in the waking state by means of a hypnotic reliving of the situation. The crucial factor, in Beigel's opinion, is the indirect nature of this method, i.e., the subject is unaware of revealing information since his major concern is the reliving of an experience. However, this approach utilizes a form of age regression, and is, as such, subject to the criticisms already made with regard to this technique. Another objection derives from the fact that the subject's motivations are not adequately taken into account. Beigel's subjects were, for the most part, therapy patients. It is, perhaps, not too far fetched to assume that psychotherapy patients "want," at some level, to reveal information to their therapist. Nor is it unreasonable to believe that they "need" to do so. Confessions to a therapist satisfy multiple needs of patients in psychotherapy.

In reviewing the existing literature we have found only one author who deals with prevarication under hypnosis (Beigel). However, our own clinical work has amply convinced us that subjects are


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fully capable of deliberately lying when motivated to do so. Although this report deals specifically with hypnosis, it may, at this juncture, be useful to consider also the question of prevarication under the influence of drugs commonly used in narcosynthesis. Its relevance is confirmed by the findings of Grinker and Spiegel (28) and others who, in the treatment of traumatic neurosis by narcosynthesis, obtained results which closely paralleled those observed by hypnotic treatment of these neuroses (17). Individual differences in response to treatment are found both in narcosynthesis and hypnosis, whereas treatment techniques show marked similarities. Friedlander (24), Schilder (63), and others have described trance-induction techniques utilizing sleep-inducing drugs. With these similarities in manner we feel that it is appropriate to mention here some of the work done on the question of prevarication under the influence of these drugs, which is treated in more detail in Chapter 3.

Muehlberger (49), for example, who considers narcosynthesis as a useful technique, admits that nevertheless, "Unless supporting evidence is obtainable, the reliability of results of 'truth serum' tests are open to serious question" (page 524). In a study of malingering soldiers Ludwig (42) reports that they remained negativistic and uncommunicative while under drugs.

In a thorough discussion of drug-induced revelation, Dession et al. (18) conclude that:

In some cases correct information may be withheld or distorted and, in others, erroneous data elicited through suggestion. Nevertheless, narcoanalysis, when correctly used, may enable the psychiatrist to probe more deeply and quickly into the psychological characteristics of the subject. For these reasons, the results should not be regarded by the psychiatrist as "truth" but simply as clinical data to be integrated with and interpreted in the light of what is known concerning the dynamics of the subject's conflictual anxieties, motivations, and behavioral tendencies.

Thus the bare results of an interview under the influence of drugs should not, standing alone, be considered a valid and reliable indicator of the facts. As a sole procedure, narcoanalysis is not sufficiently reliable.

We feel that these conclusions apply not only to narcoanalysis but to hypnosis ,as well.

If, as we have' proposed, an individual under the influence of these drugs is in a state akin to hypnosis, then the results of these drug studies support our theory that some subjects may lie, confabulate, or withhold information while in trance. This poses a special problem for the military interrogator. Even those informants who believe they are telling the truth may in fact be offering a composite of delusion, fantasy, and reality. Thus, the convincing delivery of


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information obtained under hypnosis may easily lead an interrogator astray.


A mechanism frequently used to facilitate recall is that of hypnotic age regression. There is no evidence to indicate that this technique is anything more than a convincing form of role-playing, real only on an emotional level. Thus it probably does not greatly facilitate the recall of past events. Hypnosis does not improve recall for nonmeaningful material, and does so only slightly for meaningful material. However, there is evidence that emotionally laden material that is not normally accessible can be recovered in hypnosis. It has been demonstrated that subjects can lie under both hypnosis and drugs.

It is possible that information may be obtained by hypnosis. Such information may be either accurate or inaccurate. Inaccuracies may be the result of deliberate prevarication, or of an unwitting confusion of fantasy and reality. The determination of the truth or falsity of information obtained in hypnosis would have to be based on outside criteria.

Defensive Uses of Hypnosis

Simulation of Hypnosis

An interrogator who employs hypnosis may find that his subject apparently enters trance and gives the desired information. It is possible that the subject may not be in trance but may be simulating. The literature on the problem of simulation is extremely misleading. The classical view holds that subjects are unable to deceive experienced hypnotists because hypnotic behavior "looks different" in a number of ways. Furthermore, claims have been made that in order to detect fraud the hypnotist need only suggest anesthesia to the subject and test for it with a painful stimulus.

However, there are some indications in the literature that the detection of simulation is not a simple task. For example, Pattie (55), a thoroughly experienced. investigator, felt that it was necessary to request his subjects sign forms reading as follows:

I, realizing that the experiment performed on me will probably be published in a scientific journal, solemnly declare that I was not faking or imitating the hypnotic trance but that I was genuinely hypnotized and do not remember the events of the experimental periods.


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When discussing this problem with a number of clinicians, one invariably finds that they report anecdotal evidence of having been deceived at one time or another. Orne (52) has conducted a series of studies investigating simulation. He has been unable to discover any physiological indices which differentiate simulators from deeply hypnotized subjects. In addition he also found that the overwhelming majority of apparently naive subjects are capable of simulating well enough to deceive even experienced hypnotists. Regarding pain, Orne (52) found and Shor (68) has confirmed that the simulating subjects generally tolerated higher levels of electric shock than did subjects in deep hypnosis. Using a fairly, wide spectrum of behavioral tasks, they found it was not possible to differentiate unequivocally between real and simulating subjects. However, certain kinds of behavior were observed only in the true hypnotic subjects, although not in all of them. Orne (53) has termed this behavior "trance logic." It is characterized by a mixture of hallucinations and perceptions from the real world. Typically, this mixture controverts the rules of logic normally operating in the waking state. For example, a subject might describe an hallucination of an individual sitting in a chair as "I can see Mr. X but I can see the chair through him." The appearance of trance logic in naive subjects is always indicative of hypnosis. However, trance logic helps discriminate neither those real subjects who do not manifest this behavior nor those simulators who have been taught to demonstrate it.

Considerable research remains to be done on the recognition of simulating behavior. At our present state of knowledge it is vital to bear in mind that the deep hypnosis is essentially a clinical diagnosis. Although under some circumstances this diagnosis can be made with a high degree of reliability, definitive signs of deep trance have not yet been identified. Until such pathognomic signs are developed, a subject trained to employ trance logic may not find it too difficult to deceive an interrogator.

Training in Hypnosis in Anticipation of Future Interrogation

Three related suggestions have been made for what may be called the defensive use of hypnosis. Thus, Estabrooks (22) proposed that hypnosis might be useful in (a) preventing subsequent trance induction in captured personnel, (b) causing personnel possessing sensitive information to develop amnesia for this material in case of capture, and (c) enabling captured personnel to resist stressful and painful


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interrogations by training them to develop anesthesia and analgesia when required.

These suggestions are ingenious and appealing as defensive measures. Any objective evaluation of these proposals is made difficult by the paucity of relevant studies, and we are forced to extrapolate from the meager evidence available. In judging the practicality of these suggestions it is necessary first of all to take into account that only approximately 20% of the military population can be expected to go into a sufficiently deep somnambulistic state conducive to such training. Furthermore, both the full cooperation of the military personnel involved and the availability of competent hypnotists would have to be taken for granted. In addition, training soldiers in this manner would be a time-consuming process.


Training Soldiers to Resist Subsequent Trance Induction upon Capture. Here we are immediately confronted with the question of whether trance can be induced against the individual's wishes and whether posthypnotic suggestions are effective in preventing trance induction. The first question has been discussed previously. Although the crucial experiment has not yet been done, there is little or no evidence to indicate that trance can be induced against a person's wishes. The proposal to train individuals not to do something they are able to avoid anyway appears to be of doubtful utility. It may be sufficient to warn them of possible techniques of trance induction and inform them that they are able to resist, if they so desire. In fact, the question ought to be raised whether training in hypnosis may not precondition an individual for subsequent trance induction, regardless of suggestions that they ought to resist hypnosis. There is no evidence that training in hypnosis predisposes subjects toward trance induction with or without their cooperation. However, there is considerable evidence that training in hypnosis makes subsequent trance induction easier with only token cooperation by the subject.

Effectiveness of Posthypnotic Suggestions Designed to Prevent Subsequent Trance Induction. As a matter of routine, subjects are given the suggestion that they will enter hypnosis only with a competent psychologist or physician, and only if they desire to do so. It is the writer's practice to suggest further that they will begin to laugh if one of their friends or a stage hypnotist attempts to induce hypnosis. Nevertheless, in several instances these experimental subjects have permitted themselves to enter hypnosis with individuals whom they


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knew to be inexperienced. At times they have reported compulsive laughing jags just before falling asleep, in line with the posthypnotic suggestion, which did not, however, prevent their entering hypnosis. Two subjects trained in this manner entered hypnosis while watching a stage demonstration from the audience, again despite suggestions to the contrary. This observation has been confirmed by Sutcliuffe (71), who has had similar experiences. Furthermore, the writer has himself hypnotized three subjects who had received specific suggestions from other hypnotists that they would be unable to enter trance with anyone else.

Spontaneous Trance. The spontaneous appearance of trance warrants some consideration. It has been noted during psychotherapy that patients who have had considerable hypnotic experience will sometimes use the trance state as a defense mechanism in order to avoid awareness of painful material. Such material will emerge during spontaneous trance and will subsequently be repressed when the patient emerges from the hypnotic state. The writer has observed this several times in clinical situations and it has been reported in personal communications by several other therapists. Since hypnosis may occur spontaneously in therapeutic situations as a means for avoidance of stressful situations, it may well occur equally spontaneously in other stress situations, and could be utilized by an alert interrogator.

We have been able to terminate hypnosis in several instances when trance had been induced by inexperienced hypnotists who were unable to terminate it. In these instances it was necessary to establish a hypnotic relationship with an uncommunicative subject in deep hypnosis. Contrary to popular belief, this can be accomplished readily and rapidly usually in less than half an hour. These findings are relevant to the dangers of spontaneously occurring trance during interrogation. Thus, although the interrogator may not have induced the trance, he could assume the role of hypnotist and communicate with the subject.


In view of the foregoing considerations, it appears not only fruitless but potentially dangerous to train subjects to resist subsequent trance induction. If the hypnotist has sufficient skill and experience, he might well be able to utilize the very suggestions given against entering hypnosis as the necessary wedge to induce hypnosis. Thus, if the suggestion has been given that the subject will not enter trance but


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will laugh, and the hypnotist observes the subject beginning to laugh, he might suggest that the subject will begin to laugh more and more and will laugh so hard that he will become exhausted and go to sleep. In the same manner a posthypnotic suggestion of a headache or any other subjective experience which ought to prevent hypnosis can be utilized as a means of inducing it. Another danger of the hypnotically trained soldier is the greater likelihood of spontaneous appearance of trance in a stressful situation such as interrogation. Hence, the use of trance as a means of preventing subsequent trance induction by a potential captor has inherent dangers.


More appealing perhaps than the previous suggestion is the possibility of causing captive subjects to forget whatever sensitive information they may have learned. Here again we encounter several technical problems. A blanket suggestion to forget all sensitive material will frequently fail to take effect. It is well known that the effectiveness and permanency of a hypnotic suggestion are directly related to the concrete definition of a specific task. As a rule, general suggestions such as blanket amnesia have unpredictable effects even in very good subjects. It may be possible to suggest that a soldier only remember his name, rank, and serial number in the event of capture. However, this raises not only the serious question of whether this could be accomplished but also of whether it might deprive the soldier of information which may be vital to him during captivity. A state of severe psychopathology would be artificially induced, which may be adaptive in some respects but extremely disturbing in others.

The decision of what to say during interrogation would be made for the soldier beforehand. The inevitable impoverishment of knowledge and loss of ego control would furnish the interrogator a very effective way of controlling his captive. The captive would be seriously distressed by the feeling of loss of self-evident and necessary information, and the interrogator would be able to assume the role of a helpful individual ready to assist the recall of memory. Such a quasi-therapeutic relationship would inevitably produce an alliance between captive and interrogator with concomitant formation of a strong positive relationship. Recall would eventually take place, as in the treatment of amnesia under normal circumstances. The captive's defenses would be lowered so that, as recall takes place, information would tend to be shared with the helpful interrogator.

In other words, the induced psychopathology may be sufficiently


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disturbing to the captive to make him the easy victim of any technique aimed at relieving his discomfort. He may become a willing and cooperative subject for hypnosis, legitimized now as a treatment technique. Sodium pentothal may also be used, and is generally successful in leading to rapid recall. Since under these circumstances, control over the information is no longer an ego function of the captive nor his responsibility, he would feel little constraint in sharing his knowledge as it comes to him. Only after reestablishment of complete recall would he became aware of betraying vital information.

In summary, then, it does not appear feasible to cause a potential captive to forget sensitive information selectively. Such discrimination would require that, in giving the posthypnotic suggestion, the hypnotist would have to be aware of all types of present and potential future information that the subject has or will have, and that he make allowance for all eventualities. The alternative, to cause the soldier to forget everything about himself other, than his name, rank, and serial number, would work only in a small minority of people. However, even for them a potentially vulnerable situation would develop, more vulnerable in fact than if no suggestion had taken place. The artificially induced pathology could easily be broken down, if recognized as such by the interrogator, who could secure the cooperation of the soldier by presenting interrogation as treatment of a sick person. It may be far safer to rely on the soldier's own ego control to decide what information ought not to be revealed to an enemy than to make this decision for him by posthypnotic means. Artificially induced amnesia would deprive the soldier of his ego functions and put him at the mercy of his captors. This method also has other serious defects; offensive action, such as escape or cooperation with fellow prisoners to obstruct interrogation, would be severely handicapped.


The final suggestion that we should like to discuss in this section concerns the use of posthypnotic suggestion in training individuals to resist stress, particularly pain. Extensive information is available about the use of hypnosis as a means of suppressing pain. Major surgical operations have been performed with hypnosis as the sole anesthetic.

Laboratory experiments have demmonstrated that with hypnotic analgesia subjects do not report experiencing pain but continue to respond physiologically much as they do in the waking state (Shor, 68). Beecher (5) has shown that patients' reactions to placebos


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(a suggestive phenomenon analogous to hypnosis) is far greater under situations of great stress and high anxiety than in the laboratory. It appears that hypnosis and placebos are most effective in situations of high anxiety and it is probable that their major effect is on the anxiety component of pain. During interrogation this component is most threatening to the individual, and thus hypnosis seems to be a particularly appropriate method of protection.

Whether such a procedure is feasible depends on a number of considerations. As stated in preceding sections, only a relatively small number of individuals will enter a sufficiently deep somnambulistic state permitting the development of the profound analgesia necessary for this purpose. Furthermore, the author is not aware of any instance where a major surgical procedure was undertaken during posthypnotically induced analgesia. Although we are certain that in some individuals this is potentially possible, clinicians working with hypnosis generally believe that the hypnotic state itself is more efficacious in inducing analgesia than posthypnotic suggestions.

Another question that arises concerns the type of suggestion which ought to be given to the subject. It would seem manifestly inappropriate to attempt to suppress any and all pain sensations that the individual may experience subsequent to hypnosis. First, we seriously doubt the effectiveness of such a suggestion. Second, if it should take effect, it may be dangerous since pain serves a useful function as a physiologic warning signal. It would be more appropriate to focus the suggestion on the inability to feel pain at the hands of captors. However, if the subject were captured and felt any pain at all, the entire suggestion would rapidly break down. This is likely to occur in all but very few instances. (It is due to this need for repetitive reinforcement of suggestions of analgesia that major surgery is undertaken in hypnosis rather than posthypnotically.) It is generally known that any one failure of a hypnotic suggestion will diminish the effectiveness of subsequent suggestions. Such failure will tend to eliminate almost completely the suggestion concerning the modality where it failed. Here again, the soldier who is taught to rely on hypnosis as an analgesic and finds it ineffective in certain situations may be considerably worse off than if he had not trusted this mechanism in the first place.

It seems, then, that the use of hypnosis in withstanding stress, and particularly pain, is impractical. Few individuals are able to enter a trance sufficiently deep to permit profound analgesia. Furthermore, the analgesia would have to be produced posthypnotically, a less effective method than that produced during trance. The post-


203 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

hypnotic suppression of all pain may also be dangerous to the individual. Finally, if such posthypnotic analgesia were possible and it should break down, it would leave the individual more vulnerable than if he had not relied upon this mechanism at all.

Motivating Instructions

Our findings with individuals who have had instructions to simulate hypnosis are particularly relevant. Much of our current research employs simulating subjects as controls and, as we have pointed out previously, these subjects are willing and able to tolerate extremely painful stimuli. In fact, in a recent study Shor (68) found that simulators uniformly tolerate a higher levels of painful electric shock than do subjects in deep hypnosis. These findings indicate that appropriate motivating instructions are as effective as hypnosis in enabling individuals to tolerate laboratory situations of pain. Whether this also holds true in situations which represent real danger to the organism, such as major surgery or the threats encountered during interrogation, remains to be demonstrated. This suggests that motivational sets might be devised which would effectively protect personnel against breakdown under stress. How enduring such motivating instructions are remains to be studied.

Autogenous Training

One of the main defects of the three proposals discussed is that each involves a lessening of ego control. There is an application of hypnosis which might be explored fruitfully since it relies largely upon the responsibility of the subject for his actions. This is the technique of autogenous training developed by Schultz (67). Instead of the usual procedure in which the hypnotist suggests the occurrence of various events, the subject is taught that he is capable of inducing them in himself by proper concentration. He is taught the technique by a series of graduated steps. These are so designed that each is mastered before the subject is permitted to go on to the next one. For example, in the initial exercise the subject is taught to concentrate on his right hand becoming heavy and he is shown the most advantageous posture. After being shown the exercise by the teacher, he is instructed to repeat the procedure by himself between three and five times a day for a two-minute period each. Within a period of two weeks or so a large proportion of the subject population is able to achieve a considerable degree of subjective heaviness. He is then


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taught to induce a feeling of warmth and eventually goes on to control of respiration, relaxation of the body, and if desired selective anesthesia. The interesting feature of this technique is that the subject eventually becomes fully capable of producing these phenomena through his own efforts rather than by the suggestions given him by the teacher (hypnotist). Probably, the hypnotist is internalized by the subject in this process, and thus becomes an ego resource. Such a technique would also be useful in solitary confinement for controlling anxieties that otherwise might be overwhelming. The major distinction between this use of hypnosis and those commonly advocated is that the procedure would be one more technique of mastery available to the captive without sacrificing any degree of ego control. There is some anecdotal evidence that individuals trained in this manner found it useful during confinement in concentration camps.

It is difficult to determine whether the technique of autogenous training is in itself the effective mechanism or whether it merely represents a form of pseudo-mastery which can become an ego support. Both factors probably play a role. Thus, an increased degree of control over pain can undoubtedly be achieved. Equally important is the illusion of mastery that the individual may be able to create without recourse to external aids. Thus, if he is deprived of his clothing and his dignity he would still have at his disposal a technique which depends strictly upon concentration and which cannot be taken from him. When the individual feels at the mercy of an apparently all powerful captor, it may well be as important to him to be able to demonstrate to himself that he can control his respiration or can make a limb heavy as the actual ability to decrease physical pain.

Biderman (11) has discussed the importance to the interrogation subject of maintaining the feeling of control through either real or illusory devices. As long as the individual is able to induce subjective changes at will he may maintain a feeling of control which cannot be taken away. Anecdotal evidence obtained in personal communication from an individual subject to extensive interrogation by the Gestapo may illustrate the point. This subject found that he was able to control the point of passing out during interrogation. He would decide not to pass out just yet but perhaps some 60 sec later. Whether in fact he had control of this kind or whether he had the illusion of control is unimportant because the subjective feeling helped to maintain his mastery of the situation throughout several months of intensive interrogation. It is possible that autogenous


205 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

training may be a technique for providing the potential captive with an untouchable and effective technique of mastery in a situation where he is physically totally at the mercy of his captors.


The suggestion that hypnosis be utilized as a means of enabling potential captives to withstand enemy interrogation appears impractical. At best, it could be utilized with an exceedingly small percentage of subjects. Prevention of subsequent trance induction, by a posthypnotic suggestion to that effect, seems unlikely. The posthypnotic induction of amnesia and anesthesia for the event of capture would leave the captive in a more vulnerable position than he would have been otherwise, if indeed it is feasible at all. The training in hypnosis necessary to achieve these phenomena might well make the subject more accessible to attempts at trance induction by an enemy interrogator.

Our primary objection to all three of the proposed suggestions is based on the inevitable result of diminishing the individual's responsibility for his own actions by placing reliance on mechanisms outside his ego control. It is preferable and safer to utilize techniques designed to increase the soldier's ego control and potential mastery of unpredictable circumstances than to place faith in a semiconscious mechanism. Information about what the soldier might expect under conditions of captivity, about the techniques of enemy interrogation, about the kind of reactions he might experience in himself would all be desirable in terms of increasing his ego control and therefore his mastery of a potentially difficult situation. Two specific techniques designed to enhance ego control were suggested: the use of motivating instructions and the technique of autogenous training.

Defense Against the Use of the Hypnotic Situation in Interrogation

The technical reasons for the limited utility of hypnosis as an instrument of interrogation have been discussed here at some length. It is highly questionable whether it is possible to induce a trance in a resistant subject. Furthermore, even if trance could be induced, considerable evidence indicates that it is doubtful whether a subject could be made to reveal information which he wished to safeguard. And finally, it has been shown that accuracy of such information, were any to be obtained, would not be guaranteed since subjects in hypnosis are fully capable of lying. However, it is possible that both


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hypnosis and drugs, such as pentothal, scopolamine, sodium amytal, etc., may nonetheless be applicable to interrogation procedures. It would be well to differentiate between the effectiveness of hypnosis as such and the hypnotic situation. The latter seems to offer greater potential applicability for interrogation purposes.

The psychological meaning of the situation to the captive during interrogation is one which varies widely from individual to individual. It is not our purpose here to review the meaning of capture and interrogation from a psychodynamic viewpoint,1 but only to consider briefly why individuals will undergo extremes of physical and mental suffering to prevent the interrogator from obtaining the desired information. The answer seems to lie in the extreme guilt such a person would experience were he to collaborate with the enemy while he is in control of his faculties. His self-image would suffer especially in terms of his values and his identification with comrades, country, etc. For interrogation purposes it would be extremely useful if it were possible to alleviate the guilt of an informant.

Let us consider the captive who is in fever and delirious, and who in this condition divulges vital information. Neither he nor his comrades would hold him responsible for the disclosure. By the same token a soldier who leaves his post as a guard is subject to court martial, but if he collapses because of illness he would not be committing a punishable offense. Parenthetically, it may be noted

1 Parenthetically, it may be noted that conditions of interrogation are sometimes conducive to a regression on the part of the source. The interrogator can exercise complete control of the source's physical being -- his primitive needs such as elimination, eating, and sleeping, and even bodily postures. He is also in a position to reward or punish any predetermined activity on the part of the captive. This tends to create a situation where the individual feels unable to observe any control over himself. This extreme loss of control is handled in a variety of ways, one of which is a regression to a childlike state of dependence on and identification with the aggressor. A discussion of the similarities and differences between this type of situation and hypnosis is given by Gill and Brenman in their recent book (26). It is doubtful that this type of situation is conducive to the induction of hypnosis as we know it. This question could only be tested in such coercive situations, however. Obviously, the creation of an experimental situation even vaguely approximating that of: punitive interrogation is well nigh impossible within the legitimate ethical limitations imposed on experimental work.

Biderman (11), discussing; the compliance, of prisoners of war with interrogators, believes that some prisoners adopt a cooperative role because of the need to reassure themselves that they retain some control over their behavior in the coercive situation. Complying "voluntarily" for such cases is less threatening, and may be regarded by them as less shameful, than losing control completely over their actions. This "self-defeating" defense may also play a role in the responses of an antagonistic subject to a hypnotist he fears.


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that in many cultures physical illness would not be accepted as an excuse. For example, in the old German army a soldier who fainted would be punished. At any rate, contemporary United States culture clearly excuses the individual when he is incapacitated. A sophisticated discussion of the relationship of illness to social responsibility is given by Parson (54).

This principal has been extended to mental illness. Although considerable controversy exists about mental illness as a defense in criminal cases, the fact remains that our courts have become progressively more liberal in this respect. Insanity is accepted in our courts as a valid plea which modifies both verdict and sentence.

The captive in interrogation is apprehensive of a dangerous and painful ordeal. If he is provided with a situation where he is no longer held responsible for his actions, he may well be "willing" to collaborate with an enemy. Both hypnosis and some of the drugs inducing hypnoidal states are popularly viewed as situations where the individual is no longer master of his own fate and therefore not responsible for his actions. It seems possible then that the hypnotic situation, as distinguished from hypnosis itself, might be used to relieve the individual of a feeling of responsibility for his own actions and thus lead him to reveal information. The hypnotic situation is more complex than indicated here. A simplification of it is undertaken since a more complete discussion would be inappropriate in this context.

Social Measures

A number of social measures would increase the prisoner's feelings of helplessness if such an approach were employed. For example, the prevalence of rumors that semimagical techniques of extracting information are being used over which the informant has absolutely no control might operate in this way. A group of captives who had collaborated, and who could verify that the individual has no control over his actions, would enhance this indoctrination of the new prisoner. The prisoners who did not reveal information might be transferred rather than punished, with vague rumors filtering back as to what had happened. This would have the advantage of maximizing anxiety while not directing hostility at the immediate captors. In any case, a captor seeking to exploit, the hypnotic situation would prevent consensual validation of the prisoner's feeling that he could control himself during interrogation. The captor might treat the captive who gives information somewhat like a sick individual in


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order to avoid any notion that there is an element of choice involved in his behavior.

The Magic Room Technique

The trance induction itself might be initiated through the use of drugs since this would clearly convey to the prisoner that he is unable to prevent himself from responding. The second stage of "trance induction" might utilize a situation which the author has described elsewhere (53) as the "magic room." This procedure involves convincing the subject that he is responding to suggestions. An example of this would be the case of the prisoner who is given a hypnotic suggestion that his hand is growing warm. However, in this instance, the prisoner's hand actually does become warm, a problem easily resolved by the use of a concealed diathermy machine. Or it might be suggested to the prisoner that when he wakes up a. cigarette will taste bitter. Here again, he could be given a cigarette prepared to have a slight, but noticeably bitter, taste. The prisoner's own cigarettes, as well as any lying about the room, would have been especially prepared, and the hypnotist would also smoke these as though nothing were unusual. In this manner, the idea could be conveyed to the subject that he is responding to the given suggestions. It can easily be seen how, with sufficient ingenuity, a large number of "suggestions" can be made to work by means unknown to the subject. The vital issue here would be that the subject became convinced that he was responding to suggestions and, for example, that the cigarettes really do not taste bitter, but that he experiences them as such because he cannot resist the suggesion.

An unresolved question is the classification of the state in which a prisoner who collaborates under these circumstances finds himself. We feel it helpful to recognize that it may or may not be hypnosis. The crucial variable is the creation of a situation where the individual is legitimately able to give up responsibility for his actions and therefore is permitted to avoid a threatening situation. It is probable that these manipulations occasionally would elicit some form of trance phenomenon, but the crucial aspect would be the situation, not the presence of a hypnotic state.

Although the hypnotic situation as a tool of interrogation might yield information, the interrogator would have no more assurance of its accuracy than with the elicitation of information by hypnosis proper. The same cautions which have been stated with regard to hypnosis remain applicable here. Furthermore, for the success of the


209 The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation

technique the interrogator would have to act, in his relationship with the captive, as though the information must be correct. Unless the interrogator is certain that the information is false, any doubt he betrayed would increase the subject's feeling of control and decrease the effectiveness of the hypnotic situation. Consequently, the interrogator would be denied the use of techniques of cross examination upon which much of his success in deriving accurate information ordinarily depends. In constructing a pretense that the prisoner has lost responsibility for his behavior, he is also relieved of any responsibility for giving accurate and pertinent information. On the other hand, the interrogator could utilize to advantage any information he has that the subject does not know he has. For example, the informant could be given a hypnotic drug with appropriate verbal suggestions to talk about a given topic. Eventually enough of the drug would be given to cause a short period of unconsciousness. When the subject wakens, the interrogator could then read from his "notes" of the hypnotic interview the information presumably told him. It can readily be seen how this technical maneuver fits into the general concept of the "magic room," and how it would facilitate the elicitation of information in subsequent interviews.

Although there is no direct evidence that such techniques have been or will be employed by interrogators nor any evaluation of their effectiveness, they represent simple extensions of hypnosis to traditional interrogation practices as described by Biderman (10).

The effectiveness of the polygraph as a lie detection device is sometimes employed, apart from the use of the machine, to create a situation where the subject feels incapable of preventing himself from revealing the truth. According to Inbau and Reid (33), many of the confessions obtained with the lie detector are obtained before the actual use of the polygraph. This is clearly analogous to our estimate regarding the possible use of hypnosis, i.e., separating the hypnotic situation from the effectiveness of hypnosis per se.

The hypnotic situation has been discussed in detail in order to point out the defensive procedures which can be taken to protect personnel from this type of interrogation. With lie detection, to use this parallel once more, the most effective defense has been a high level of sophistication of the subject. Similarly in the hypnotic situation, knowledge seems to be the most effective defense. Even one or two lectures on hypnosis might be highly effective in conveying the information that an individual cannot be hypnotized against his will, but that a situation can be devised where he could be tricked into believing that he has been hypnotized. Furthermore, demon-


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strating that the individual is able to lie under hypnosis and cannot be compelled to speak the truth, or to follow suggestions really contrary to his beliefs, would probably be extremely effective.


If it were to be used on interrogation subjects, hypnosis itself may be quite innocuous, but it is entirely possible that the utilization of the hypnotic situation for this purpose could be a serious threat. Such a situation would alleviate the informant's guilt by relieving him of the responsibility for his behavior, and would supply him with an alternative to a dreaded and potentially stressful situation. A method of "trance induction," similar to what we have called the "magic room," could be employed to produce a hypnotic situation. The use of the hypnotic situation, as opposed to hypnosis, would make this interrogation technique applicable to a greater percentage of potential informants. Defensive measures to protect personnel from those techniques depend upon the knowledge and confidence of the subject.

Summary and Conclusions

This report has attempted to evaluate the utility of hypnosis in interrogation procedures. Various theoretical views as to the nature of hypnosis were briefly reviewed. The author aligns himself with the "motivational theorists" who maintain that an understanding of the phenomenon of hypnosis is to be found in a consideration of both the subject's motivation in the situation and his relationship to the hypnotist.

Because of the dearth of evidence bearing directly on the question of the use of hypnosis in interrogation, the problem was broken down into a series of component questions, with each considered separately. A review of the available literature bearing on the question of whether trance can be induced in resistant subjects led us to conclude that such a possibility is extremely doubtful. It seems that while trance may be induced without the subject's awareness, this generally requires the existence of a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject, a requirement not always met in the interrogation situation.

Assuming that a trance may be induced in a potential informant, what degree of behavioral control does hypnosis allow? This question generally focuses on the possibility of inducing a subject to violate social prohibitions. Although many laboratory experiments have


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been directed at this question, they suffer from the criticism that they are only, after all, "contrived" situations and the subject, in all probability, perceives them as such at some level. Although the author doubts that proscribed behavior can be induced against the subject's wishes, he must admit that the crucial experiments have not been performed, and the resolution of this question must await this event. There are three documented cases of "real, nonlaboratory" situations involving the use of hypnosis for compelling criminal behavior. However, close scrutiny of these instances reveals that in each case an intense emotional relationship existed between hypnotist and subject. The bearing of these cases on the question at hand is consequently in doubt. One need not invoke hypnosis to explain behavior on the part of one individual to please another, be it criminal or not, when an intense emotional relationship exists between the individuals involved. One element which hypnosis introduces is the subject's lack of awareness of his own motivation; a motivation which seems to derive not from hypnosis but from the emotional relationship between hypnotist and subject. Again, the interrogation situation does not readily evolve such a relationship.

The question of the accuracy of information obtained during a hypnotic trance has been considered. It seems clear from the evidence that such information need not be veridical; the subject remains fully capable of distortions, despite hypnotic suggestions to the contrary.

These various proposals to utilize hypnosis as a defense against interrogation have been discussed: (a) to give hypnotic suggestions designed to prevent further trance induction, (b) to increase resistance to pain and psychic stress by appropriate posthypnotic suggestion, and (c) to induce amnesia posthypnotically for sensitive information in the event of capture. All these proposals involve diminishing the subject's mastery of the situation. They function as artificially induced repressive mechanisms and suffer from the same drawbacks commonly seen in repression: a loss of ego control and a consequent lessened degree of flexibility in dealing with reality. Captured personnel are already threatened by loss of ego control, and we feel that proposals which would further impoverish the ego are extremely hazardous and would make the individual more vulnerable than he already is. We have suggested alternative defensive measures which would not sacrifice ego control, namely, appropriate instructions and the technique of autogenous training.

The distinction has been drawn between the use of hypnosis per se and the hypnotic situation. The hypnotic situation could be used quite effectively for interrogation purposes. The common belief that


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an individual in hypnosis is not responsible for his actions, although probably incorrect, could be exploited. The hypnotic situation, by relieving the subject of responsibility for his actions, alleviates guilt and thus allows the captive to divulge information which he might not otherwise yield. Ways in which an interrogator might seek to maximize the effectiveness of such a situation include the use of drugs, the use of a technique we have called the "magic room," various social measures, etc. Defensive measures necessary against such a technique would involve the dissemination of appropriate information.


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The preceding paper is reproduction of the following book chapter (Orne, M. T. The potential uses of hypnosis in interrogation. In A. D. Biderman & H. Zimmer (Eds.), The manipulation of human behavior. New York: Wiley, 1961. Pp.169-215.). It is reproduced here with the kind permission of Sumiko F. Biderman for Albert D. Biderman..