Hypnosis is a process whereby a person’s mental state is altered in such a way that the conscious mind no longer stands in the way of the brain accessing memories or accepting suggestions that might change behaviour. Hypnosis is sometimes used to retrieve memories related to a person’s paranormal experience and to study extrasensory perception. In regard to the latter, some experiments have shown that hypnosis heightens telepathic ability.

For example, in one series of experiments in which one person tried to mentally send information to another person, the telepathic sender was left in a normal waking state while the receiver was placed under hypnosis. The two people were in different rooms. The sender was then given a substance like salt or sugar to taste, and the receiver was asked to identify what the sender was tasting. In a similar study, the sender was pinched and the receiver was asked what part of the sender’s body was experiencing pain. Several of these tests yielded correct answers at a rate greater than what mere chance would have dictated. Because of these and other tests, many parapsychologists have concluded that a mind in an altered state is more receptive to telepathically sent images and sensations.

Sceptics dismiss all tests of psychic abilities conducted under hypnosis, generally saying that either the testing methods or the statistical analyses are flawed in some way. Sceptics also dismiss any claims of memories of alien abduction that are retrieved through hypnosis. Approximately 70 per cent of alien abductees first remember their experience while hypnotized, and some ufologists say this is proof that the abductees are not making up their accounts. Sceptics, however, point to studies indicating that hypnosis does not keep someone from lying intentionally. Moreover, they note that a few individuals can fake a hypnotic state so well that even an experienced psychologist cannot spot the deception. Sceptics further point out that hypnotized people sometimes misremember events, distorting some of the details of what happened, or recall things that never really occurred, and these false memories can be highly detailed.

Psychologists also know that hypnosis makes the mind so easy to influence that hypnotists can influence their patients’ responses. Consequently, hypnotists trying to retrieve a patient’s memories have to be careful about the way they phrase their questions. For example, asking abductees under hypnosis, “How did you get your scar?” is different from asking them, “Do you think your scar might have come from some kind of surgical procedure?” UFO sceptic Philip J. Klass has said that poor questioning is the reason ufologist Budd Hopkins can claim to have uncovered so many cases of alien abduction. He believes that Hopkins subtly encourages his hypnotized subjects to tell detailed abduction stories. According to Klass, Hopkins’s abductees are so eager for his approval that they will say anything while under hypnosis in order to please him. However, ufologist David M. Jacobs, the hypnotist who worked with Hopkins and his abductees, says that the abductees were not led and that most abductees refuse to be led.


  • Alien Abduction Experiences
  • David M. Jacobs
  • Philip J. Klass


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning