In his book, The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot describes how Tom was standing next to his daughter when receiving the hypnotic suggestion that she is no longer visible to him. Then, according to Talbot:

  1. Tom could no longer see his daughter, even though she was standing next to him

  2. Tom could read something that was covered from his field of view by her body

The simplest explanation is of course that Tom was an accomplice of the hypnotist. Let us assume for a moment that he was not.

Is (1) plausible, given what is known scientifically about hypnosis?

Is there any evidence at all of a phenomenon like (2) other than Talbot's anecdote?

  • Kindly explain the downvote so I can either refute its reasoning or improve future questions please? Nov 3, 2014 at 17:23
  • See also new release (or paper directly) for an experiment in which some psysical brain activity correlates were measred following a suggestion of what color is to be expected. Jan 14, 2018 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


Negative hallucinations under hypnosis are a decently documented phenomena.

In Suggested negative visual hallucinations in hypnotic subjects: When no means yes. Spanos, Nicholas et al write:

45 undergraduates with high scores on the objective dimension of the Carleton University Responsiveness to Suggestion Scale were hypnotized. Ss were given the suggestion that they would see a blank sheet of paper on opening their eyes. On the paper was a clearly visible number 8. Only 15 Ss repeatedly reported seeing nothing on the page. In a posthypnotic interview designed to subtly pressure Ss into giving accurate descriptions, all but 1 of the 15 negative hallucinators reported correctly that the target was the number 8. Findings demonstrate the rarity of negative hallucination responding and its correlation with indexes of hypnotizability.

It's no easy phenomena but it exists well enough to be documented in studies.

As far as (2) goes, I'm not aware of this being well demonstrated. If the person however already knows what written on the page and they should be able to see the page, they will tell you what's written on the page.

It's like seeing colors of objects at the rand of your normal visual field. Those objects don't appear to be colorless but your eyes can only perceive colors near the center of your visual field. The colors that you see at the rand of your visual field are the best effort your brain makes to determine the color of those objects.

  • Super interesting answer! Do you have a citation for your claim about (2)? Nov 5, 2014 at 9:22
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    I haven't read mor than the abstract, but doesn't that merely suggest that - when there was pressure to report the page was blank, a third of the subjects lied and reported the page was blank. When there was subsequent pressure to admit to the lie, 14 of 15 confirmed (with evidence) that they had actually seen the number, but one remained steadfast.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 3, 2014 at 23:43
  • @Oddthinking : Being able to say what number was on the page is not the same thing as having a subjective experience of seeing the number. Also the abstract doesn't suggest that anybody lied. In the end studying subjective experience is really hard when you assume your subjects are lying.
    – Christian
    Dec 3, 2014 at 23:57
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    Okay, but Occam's Razor suggests, based on this evidence, we don't need to introduce any extraordinary abilities beyond the idea that people are willing to lie to conform to social pressure (see also Solomon Asch experiment).
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 4, 2014 at 0:01
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    @Oddthinking: there's good neuroimaging evidence that people are not merely faking negative hypnotic hallucinations. It was tested with color vs grayscale suggestions, which can be verified with the activation (or lack thereof) of the color vision center in the brain. This cannot be faked... or at least there's not evidence anyone can do this (i.e. turn off his color vision center voluntarily while looking at color image). Jan 14, 2018 at 13:59

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