THE POWER OF SUGGESTION

I was listening to a science show on the radio. It was about the relationship between science and the world of the psychic phenomena. It made lots of interesting points about the need for humans to have explanations for things, particularly in times of stress although the existence of anything paranormal was poo pooed.

As part of the programme, they asked the studio audience to conduct an experiment. It was introduced as a way of finding who had the most imagination. Of course, what it was really about was susceptibility. I was at home on my own so I joined in.

So. If I could now do a straw poll of my readership, I wonder how many of you would say that I, self-confessed sceptic and truster in science, would fall for something as simple as that? Alternatively, you may feel that I have some powers of imagination and a tendency to believe the unlikely which might be revealed by such a test. I suspect you could all have a pretty good guess as to which side of the line I fell.

Actually, the key word is ‘susceptibility’. With my logical, rational head on I cannot be convinced of the existence of higher powers, ghosts and communications from beyond the grave. But I would like to believe in fairies, am highly credulous, easily deceived and like to think I can be open minded.

Of course I fell for the experiment hook, line and sinker. Even as the instructions were being spoken, I was aware that I was being manipulated but when I opened my eyes it was obvious that some stronger part of my brain had taken over and decided that I was, unwillingly or otherwise, going to cooperate with what I was being told to do.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that my susceptibility has been proven. A hypnotist came to the Students’ Union one night when I was there. Guess where this is going! We had to lace our fingers over our heads and the ones who couldn’t separate them when he’d finished suggesting things to us were judged suitably susceptible and had to go up on stage. There were about twenty of us. Without giving any indication of how he did it, the hypnotist quickly identified those who were pretending and sent them back to their seats. This left me and nine others to make the show.

It’s a strange experience, being hypnotised. I was aware of what was going on the whole time. I knew that the things that he was asking us to do were silly or required  a leap of imagination – invisible chairs, dripping ice creams, alcoholic water – but somehow it all seemed perfectly sensible and quite ordinary.

So, from this I must conclude that I am someone to whom things can be suggested and I will believe them. I am Derren Brown’s dream audience member. Despite my professed logical outlook and pragmatic approach to life, there is something about the way my mind works that makes it open to things that don’t make much sense. But should I be bothered? Does it reveal yet another massive character flaw? I suppose I rather like to think of myself as having imagination but isn’t that just a nice way of saying that I’m a mug?

Actually, all it means is that I can be hypnotised. It doesn’t follow that I will start attending seances and believe that a woman with a crystal ball can predict my future. It is fascinating though and I would love to talk to a hypnotist about why their powers work on some people and not others and what it is about my brain that makes me susceptible. It’s probably just my tendency towards gullibility but I like to think that that’s part of my charm!

What do you think? I'd love to know...