Hypnosis has long been used throughout history in order to make people do things that they otherwise normally wouldn’t be willing to do. If you’ve ever been to a hypnosis stage show then you would have seen this first hand with the volunteers that were brought up on stage.
Throughout the 20th century, a number of experiments were conducted by great hypnotists and psychologists such as Milton Erickson. These experiments were designed to further explore and refine the art of making people do things they wouldn’t normally do, even without their knowledge. Erickson had such great success with his experiments that modern offshoots known as NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and Mentalism (with an entire TV series based on this art) began to flourish amongst the hypnotically-savvy toward the end of the century. The product of Erickson’s experiments, along with the practical application of utilizing his works in order to covertly hypnotize other people, has now evolved into a new field known as “covert hypnosis”.
Covert hypnosis works by planting a suggestion within someone’s mind in an indirect manner. For example, if you wanted a person to be honest with you, and tell you the truth, you could word a suggestion such as the following: “Sometimes people begin to feel that honesty is the best medicine, especially in terms of guilt, but anyway, how are you and your wife doing, any problems?”.
Notice that this statement contains two crucial components. First of all, we plant a subconscious suggestion by stating that honesty is a good thing, however we do it in an indirect manner. In covert hypnosis, we never expressly command someone to do something; instead it’s always a subtle suggestion. The second part of the statement is the question itself that we want an honest answer to; regarding the person’s relationship with their wife. Notice how we transitioned from the suggestion through to the question by completely changing the topic. If we kept the topic the same, for example by saying “it’s always good to be honest, so tell me how you and your wife are doing?” we are triggering a psychological defense mechanism which is more likely to make the person lie with their answer. By changing the topic completely, and keeping the suggestion and question separate, no such defense is triggered.
This is of course a very simplified example, but it goes to show that hypnotizing someone to do something without them being aware of it, such as having someone tell the truth, is not all that difficult given the right context.