Ideas on Hypnotism

The other night I saw Daniel Dennett speak at Reed, on the occasion of his new book on religion. I won’t go into the whole thing, but one notion that intrigued me.

In speaking about shamans, Dennett said they essentially invented hypnotic techniques of healing (along with uses of plants, touch, etc), that act somewhat like the placebo effect. They acted as the ‘health care’ system of their people, and thus were perhaps of most help to those who were susceptible to hypnotism. Dennett saw this as a ‘selection pressure’ on humans, that hypnotic susceptibility would be a favorable characteristic.

Along with this, a bit from an article on hynotism research by Sandra Blakeslee:

What you see is not always what you get, because what you see depends on a framework built by experience that stands ready to interpret the raw information – as a flower or a hammer or a face.
The top-down structure explains a lot. If the construction of reality has so much top-down processing, that would make sense of the powers of placebos (a sugar pill will make you feel better), nocebos (a witch doctor will make you ill), talk therapy and meditation. If the top is convinced, the bottom level of data will be overruled.

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