Has hypnotism been used to enhance memory?

For example if I go to my friend's house, I may forget it's details like how many steps does there have or what color was it's door! This is my conscious mind. But as I hear, these details stored in the subconscious mind.

So is it possible to obtain those data by hypnotism ?

  • I'd think it'd help the person be more expressive about their thoughts.
    – Double U
    Jan 26 '14 at 21:04
  • Remember all the people who were jailed for sexually abusing their children, after the memories were "recovered" under hypnosis. It's just as easy to recover a false memory as a true one.
    – hdhondt
    Apr 28 '14 at 0:06
  • It would be nice to see a study that showed not only had it been used (like the first attempted answer), but whether it returns more details and/or more accurate details than a control of not being hypnotised but being relaxed.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 8 '14 at 23:03

Yes, but with reservations, as you will read:

Hypnotism as practiced by physicians and the like is essentially guided self-hypnosis. The brain changes in measurable ways from a normal "awake" state (or Beta brain wave frequency) gradually down through alpha state when the brain waves slow down and you become more relaxed and then finally to a theta state. See Here. When you fall asleep you go through these stages and finally into a delta state, which is sleep.

In practice people's susceptibility to guiding themselves or being guided, varies enormously, but most people are able to be hypnotized to some degree. Once you are in this state, you are able to focus and concentrate very much better than "normally". This may well enable you to remember fine details of that front door, even chips in the paintwork and tiny plants growing through cracks in the concrete.

Theta state is a deeper state of relaxation; this is a common state of hypnosis and meditation. Theta allows you to access memories.

From reference above.

There's a couple of interesting tidbits from psychologytoday.com here.

The key to understanding the ability of hypnosis to improve memory is found in how our memory works in the first place. Memory is actually a complicated system that remains not fully understood. There are the very short term memories (like recalling a phone number) which last a few seconds. The long term memory works in a two stage process. First, you store the experience somewhere in you mind and secondly, we have to recall that memory. Problems may occur in either system: the storage or retrieval.


The first question is what and how were you trying to store that information? What cognitive mode were you using (visual, auditory, written, sensory, etc)? What was the context of the situation? What were any associations about the information?

and (Slight edit for it to make contextual sense)

memory retrieval is accomplished by helping the subject focus on the experience and sequence of details increasing the vividness of each memory until all the information was recalled. Police have used hypnotists to help witnesses recall details of crime scenes. This has actually led to the thorny issue of false memories

So the answer would seem to be a qualified yes, so it depends on how well you can focus your mind upon a singular series of sensory impressions, emotions and thoughts you had at the time. So it all depends on your ability to relax into a theta state, even if only for a brief moment, just long enough for you to recall what you need.

Other References Taken from an article by:

Steve G. Jones, Ed.S. has been practicing hypnotherapy since the 1980s. He is the author of 22 books on Hypnotherapy. Steve is a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, American Board of Hypnotherapy, president of the American Alliance of Hypnotists, on the board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Lung Association, and director of the Steve G. Jones School of Clinical Hypnotherapy. Steve G. Jones, Ed.S. is a board certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Florida (1994), a master's degree in education from Armstrong Atlantic State University (2007), and is currently working on a doctorate in education, Ed.D., at Georgia Southern University

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/026844_hypnosis_brain_consciousness.html#ixzz2uaTbyCZV

  • 6
    I don't think Natural News is a reliable source, and one of the references there is from an NLP practitioner, which seems to be quackery.
    – Ken Y-N
    Feb 27 '14 at 5:18
  • I now see the error, thanks. Further research yealded remarkably little to support the brain-wave state based hypnosis, although it turns up as one of the hypotheses. Odd that it's so widespread, but has such little substantiated theory. Feb 28 '14 at 18:20

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