Psychology
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Ways Stage Hypnotists Game Their Participants (And Audiences)

Updated June 25, 2019 1.4k views12 items

As entertaining as it can be to watch people fall under the spell of a stage hypnotist, those performers aren’t using the same techniques or procedures as a hypnotherapist. Instead, they’re using a combination of psychological tricks and stage hypnosis techniques like deception, peer pressure, and the simple power of suggestion in order to get audience members to act how they want. 

Even though stage hypnosis is the kind of procedure that can successfully treat a condition, that doesn’t mean it’s fake. So how do stage hypnotists work? By using a craft that’s similar to that of a stage magician, a performance hypnotist can make an audience - and even their performers - believe they have mystical abilities.

  • Photo: Curse of the Jade Scorpion / DreamWorks Pictures

    They Choose Subjects Who Appear Trusting

    Half of the work in stage hypnotism is choosing a volunteer who trusts the performer and isn't out to disrupt the evening. Through a series of questions and small tasks, a hypnotist will determine whether or not someone believes in hypnosis, as well as if they can imagine a broad enough scenario in which they're clucking like a chicken or barking like a dog. 

    It is better for the hypnotist if the audience member lets them do their job. If the audience member seems cynical or like they don't want to be at the show, then they're not going to be a participant. 

  • They Act Confident

    Regardless of your profession, confidence is key. When a performer is on stage, this is true tenfold. No one wants to watch an actor, comedian, or hypnotist who isn't confident they can pull off what they've promised. 

    Hypnotists are able to put their audience in a trance by simply being confident. Their self-assured nature puts everyone at ease, letting the audience know the performer is in charge and they know what they're doing. 

  • Photo: Curse of the Jade Scorpion / DreamWorks Pictures

    They Really Do Make People Go Into A Sort Of Trance

    Putting someone in a trance isn't as magical as it sounds. By using an even, measured tone of voice and keeping the attention of the volunteer on the hypnotist at all times, someone can fall into a trance. Once someone is in a trance or trance-like state, they're more open to suggestion. 

    Hypnotist Ralph Slater convinced volunteers to run a lit match across the palms of their hands as a way to show that hypnotism can be used to work through discomfort. This may not be the traditional trance people think of, but it's clear he was capable of getting volunteers and viewers to carry out his wishes with little more than a series of suggestions. 

  • Photo: The Devil Doll / MGM

    They Choose People Who Are Extroverted Without Wanting To Be The Center Of Attention

    Stage hypnotism is like a dance: The hypnotist and their volunteer have to work together in order to put on a show. Hypnotists want an audience member who's extroverted and doesn't mind looking a little silly on stage, but they don't want someone who's going to try and make the focus of the show be about them. 

    When choosing a volunteer from the audience, hypnotists are looking for someone who's on board with the concept of the show, open to being in front of people, and okay with losing themselves while on stage without drawing too much attention to themselves. That may sound like a large order, but there are at least seven different stage hypnotists working in Las Vegas right now, which means the perfect audience member is definitely out there.