Notes Psychology

Myth 12: Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of Forgotten Events (50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology)

The belief that hypnosis can retrieve lost memories is prevalent among academics and mental health professionals. 84% of psychologists and 69% of non-psychologists in 1980 believed that memories were permanently stored in the mind and can be retrieved with hypnosis.

The root of this belief comes from the early psychologists such as Pierre Janet, Joseph Breuer, and Sigmund Freud. Janet used hypnosis to help patients recover memories of traumatic events that he thought were the source of their psychological problems.

In one famous case in 1889, Janet used hypnosis to “age regress” (mentally relive an experience from the past) Marie, his patient, to her childhood when she was traumatized by seeing a child with a facial deformity. By reliving this memory, Marie was apparently freed from symptoms of blindness.

Some modern clinicians and researches think that hypnosis can be helpful in retrieving long-buried memories, but most experts think that either hypnosis has no effect on memory or that it distorts it.

In instances in which hypnosis does increase accurate memories—often because people guess and report memories when they’re unsure—this increase is offset or even surpassed by an increase in inaccurate memories (Erdelyi, 1994; Steblay & Bothwell, 1994).

Hypnosis can be useful in treating pain, habit disorders (smoking addiction), and medical conditions, but the extent to which hypnosis provides value above relaxation in these cases is not clear.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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