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No. 38: Mar-Apr 1985

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Hypnosis And Memory

Hypnotic hypernesia is the unusually vivid and complete recall of information from memory while under hypnosis. The present article reviews the extensive literature on the subject and the longstanding controversy as to whether hypnosis can enhance memory at all.

One fact does seem clear, hypnosis does not help subjects recall nonsense data or information without meaning, such as random numbers and words. When it comes to meaningful phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc., hypnosis does aid recall to some extent. If the words evoke considerable imagery, as poetry often does, hypnosis seems to help recall even more. Finally, the recall of meaningful visual images and connected series of images is helped most of all by hypnosis. In fact, there is some evidence that eidetic imagery, that vivid, near-total recall of images, which is almost exclusively a talent of childhood, can be recovered by mature subjects under hypnosis. There do not seem to be any theories that explain all these effects of hypnosis on memory.

(Relinger, Helmut; "Hypnotic Hypernesia," American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 26:212, 1984.)

Comment. Of course, memory shorn of hypnotic effects cannot really be explained either. The results of Relinger's survey make one wonder whether the human brain is specially "wired" or built to efficiently handle visual imagery that is "meaningful" in the context of human experience and theoretical expectations. This kind of construction is quite different from computer memories which process meaningless data as easily as meaningful data. UFOs, sea monsters, N-rays, etc. might just be eidetic images from human memories evoked by certain stimuli and encouraged by suggestion.

From Science Frontiers #38, MAR-APR 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

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  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

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  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987