A case of the law and hypnotic coercion and compliance.

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Examines 3 legal cases involving controversy over the coercive power of hypnosis. Testimony from the Australian cases of R. v. Davies (1979) and R. v. Palmer (1977) and J. Hartland's (see record 1974-28147-001) report of an alleged assault on a hypnotized woman highlight the opposing positions on the coercive potential of hypnosis. The first position is that coercion is possible through the induction of distorted perceptions, which delude the S into believing that the induced behavior does not violate moral codes. The opposing view is that hypnosis is not a causal factor in coercion, but may facilitate otherwise unacceptable behavior. This view suggests that individuals who carry out transgressive behavior under hypnosis already have the wish to do so, and are given the opportunity under hypnosis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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... The evidence for this speculation is not clear-cut. The transcript of the Davies case (an Australian case involving a lay hypnotist who was found @ty of assault with intent to rape, reported in Judd et al., 1986) contained the following quotations by the subject: ...
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While sexual interaction between psychologists, physicians, and other health therapists of all kinds and their clients is typically condemned by professional bodies as unethical, the controversy regarding the potential for hypnosis to produce compliant behavior in unwilling or nonconsenting subjects suggests that hypnotherapist-client sex may warrant special attention. Because the experiments required to clarify the potential for hypnosis to potentiate nontrivial compliance are themselves unethical and/or inconclusive, experimental methods cannot be adequately used to clarify this issue. Instead, the matter can be addressed by reference to other forms of evidence, such as the responses of therapists and clients to anonymous surveys and the analysis of cases, that have reached the courts. Consideration of this qualitatively deficient evidence suggests that even if the use of hypnotic suggestion can lead to compliance to sexual demands, overt coercion is seldom used in practice. Social psychological and situational factors are particularly salient in understanding therapist-client sex. The question of whether there are special properties of the dynamics of the hypnotic experience, other than specific coercive suggestion and beyond those typically found in other forms of therapy, is considered. Comparisons are drawn with other examples of socially condemned sex, such as teacher-student sex, sexual harassment in the workplace, incest, and extramarital sex.
In this paper it is argued that much of the failure to come up with a meaningful definition of ‘hypnosis’ has stemmed from disagreements, many of them semantic, about the status of hypnosis as an ‘altered state of consciousness’. However, it suggested that the assumption that there exists a special hypnotic process that is somehow conceptually and empirically distinct from other ‘non-hypnotic’ processes may stem from a category error in the use of the term ‘hypnotic state’. Moreover, contrary to how they are often presented, results from a number of physiological studies are consistent with modern ‘non-state’ sociocognitive theorizing. One way round the problem of defining hypnosis, therefore, might be to abandon the idea of a ‘altered state’ as a defining feature of hypnosis, and resurrect the historical links between hypnosis and suggestion. A definition of hypnosis is proposed in these terms, and implications are discussed. Copyright © 1998 British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis
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