The effects of the experience of hypnosis, and hypnotic depth, on jurors' decisions regarding the defence of hypnotic automatism

Purpose. The view that hypnosis can induce a state of automatism, and therefore people can be coerced through hypnosis to commit antisocial acts without their volition, is widely held by the general public. Two experiments were conducted to investigate whether such attitudes would extend to judgment...

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Bibliographic Details
Authors: Wagstaff, Graham F. (Author) ; Green, Kathryn (Author) ; Somers, Emma (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 1997
In: Legal and criminological psychology
Year: 1997, Volume: 2, Issue: 1, Pages: 65-74
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Summary:Purpose. The view that hypnosis can induce a state of automatism, and therefore people can be coerced through hypnosis to commit antisocial acts without their volition, is widely held by the general public. Two experiments were conducted to investigate whether such attitudes would extend to judgments of guilt and innocence in criminal trials in which automatism through hypnosis is invoked as a defence, and whether an experience of hypnotic induction would influence such judgments. Methods. In both experiments participants were given a standard hypnotic induction procedure, transcripts of a criminal trial involving hypnosis, and a questionnaire to measure attitudes towards hypnosis, and judgments of guilt and innocence. Results. The results showed that participants who possessed credulous attitudes towards hypnosis were more likely to accept a defence of automatism, however, participants who had experienced hypnosis were more likely to have sceptical attitudes and reject the defence of automatism. Moreover, the higher participants' reports of hypnotic depth, the more sceptical they were, and the less accepting they were of the defence of automatism. Conclusions. The results of both these studies tentatively support the views that beliefs about the coercive powers of hypnosis can influence judgments about guilt and innocence in trials in which hypnotic automatism is pleaded as a defence, and, for those who are hypnotically susceptible, an experience of hypnosis tends to make participants more sceptical about the coercive powers of hypnosis. If supported by further research these findings may have practical implications for legal cases involving hypnosis.
ISSN:2044-8333
DOI:10.1111/j.2044-8333.1997.tb00333.x