Psychology / Sleep / Dreaming / Hypnotism

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CogLab was used as part of my course in cognitive psychology, and it does a great job of giving you an idea of what you can learn by studying psychology:

Reinforcement and Behavior
*********************** ... edules_of_

BF Skinner giving a lecture: ... VZUjncC_SY ... xperiments ... tion_error


If you're looking for books on learning and growth, there are scores of other titles readily available and vastly superior to this one. Check out: 'Flow', 'Peak Learning', any of several books by Edward De Bono, any of several books by psychologist Aaron Beck, Focusing, etc. etc.. If you haven't read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, written by Robert Pirsig, one of the endorsers of Waitzkin's book, do so, it's a masterpiece.

Having Good Habits

One strong reason I see for being honest about small things is that people behave in a kind of automatic way when they don't have a lot of time to make a decision, so you may have those bad habits slip out when you don't want them to.

For example, in the speech below, Joe Biden seems to have automatically slipped into an Indian accent even though it was in really bad taste to do it. If I had to guess, I'd say that he was probably using that accent in private conversations as a way of being funny, and it slipped out in this situation because he was talking off-the-cuff and so didn't have a lot of time to think about everything he was about to say.

Biden Employs Indian Accent During NH Speech ... mes-again/


Q: Why do people sleep?

My impression at the moment is that sleep is when our brains get housekeeping done: they get rid of waste products that have accumulated, they take the important stuff we've learned that day (short-term memory) and make it more permanent (long-term memory), and they clear our short-term memory "chalkboard" so that we can scribble more stuff on it the next day.

There are a bunch of different types of sleep ("stages" of sleep). You actually only dream during one stage of sleep: "REM" sleep. It stands for "rapid-eye-movement", b/c during that stage people will see your eyes looking around under your eyelids. REM sleep is only a small part of the time you're asleep. Most people probably think they don't dream every night, but the truth is that you do; if someone jolted you awake while you were in REM sleep you would remember your dream.


You may be able to induce certain kinds of dreams by getting yourself into a particular mood / mindset before you go to sleep. Eg watching a movie about a love story before you go to sleep may make you more likely to dream about a love story.

Q: Why do people dream?

I took two courses that covered sleep, and I still can't articulate a clear answer to this question. Not good.

It seems like it's necessary to get our brains in order. If you don't dream, you'll eventually die (iirc); I think they did experiments where they kept mice/monkeys from going into REM sleep and they eventually died. I'll have to double-check that.

I think REM is also supposed to be really important for learning; so maybe it's when your brain is transferring memories from short-term to long-term memory.

Lucid dreaming

Others' experiences

  • Richard Feynman - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - Part 1: From Far Rockaway to MIT - Always Trying to Escape
    • TODO: Type this out.





Questions I have

  • From what Feynman described, it seems it's possible to get at least a short-term effect.  But how long can that effect last?  Are long-lasting (more than a day / week / month / year) effects possible?  If so, to what extent?
  • How is hypnosis different from what happens at those evangelical Christian "cure your cancer" shows, or those psychological studies where a participant can be pressured into doing something because a natural tendency to go along with an authority figure and/or actors pretending to be participants?





Stage hypnosis


  • 2009.12.23 - YouTube - SpideyHypnosis - Hypnotist gets out of speeding ticket
    • At the end he says he has "quite the collection" of tickets from police officers were this situation did not work.
    • Honestly it seems like this was a bit of a fluke situation.  Spidey was talking to the officer as if he was in an emergency situation, despite his actual words not describing an emergency situation.  It's a bit like a lie where the words themselves are not a lie, but the person speaking knows the words will create an inaccurate impression in the person listening, and thus it's still a lie.

List of hypnotic phenomena

  • Erick Kand - Hypnotic Phenomena in Stage Hypnosis Shows – Science Becomes Entertainment?
    • Catelepsy - the “locking” of the muscles in a specific area of the body suggested by the hypnotist.
    • Time Distortion - being convinced that much less time has passed than in reality (e.g. thinking five minutes have passed when an hour has passed)
    • Dissociation
    • Amnesia
    • Hallucinations
    • Post Hypnotic Suggestions - behaviors by the hypnotized person that are triggered by an action or key phrase given by the hypnotist at a later time.  Interestingly, the volunteers do not remember receiving the post hypnotic suggestions.
    • Analgesia - Reduced pain.

Possible explanations for hypnotic phenomena

  • Post-hypnotic suggestions
    • Stage hypnosis
      • The audience member knows that the audience wants to see conformity, may like having the attention of his peers, and a desire to please the audience.
        • Example: the video at the bottom of this page:
        • The behavior you see from participants on reality TV seems to suggest that there are a lot of people who so desire attention that they are willing to do things that would embarrass many other people.

My experiences with similar phenomena

  • Being asked to answer "survey questions" for a "psychology study".
  • Being invited to do "yoga".
  • My experience at CrossFit (you get energized by everyone else around you to put out a bigger effort).

Others' experiences

Similar phenomena

  • The "This is America" show by Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be very similar to hypnotism in its gradually drawing out compliance.
  • Religion - One comment on a YouTube video about hypnosis pointed out the similarity to religious behavior and I thought that was worth noting and exploring further.

Actual hypnotism

  • 1985 - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
    • Part 2: The Princeton Years - Meeeeeeeeee!
      • On Wednesdays at the Princeton Graduate College, various people would come in to give talks. The speakers were often interesting, and in the discussions after the talks we used to have a lot of fun. For instance, one guy in our school was very strongly anti-Catholic, so he passed out questions in advance for people to ask a religious speaker, and we gave the speaker a hard time.


        In the great big dining hall with stained-glass windows, where we always ate, in our steadily deteriorating academic gowns, Dean Eisenhart would begin each dinner by saying grace in Latin. After dinner he would often get up and make some announcements. One night Dr. Eisenhart got up and said, “Two weeks from now, a professor of psychology is coming to give a talk about hypnosis. Now, this professor thought it would be much better if we had a real demonstration of hypnosis instead of just talking about it. Therefore he would like some people to volunteer to be hypnotized.

        I get all excited: There’s no question but that I’ve got to find out about hypnosis. This is going to be terrific!

        ... a week before the demonstration the man came to practice on us, to see if any of us would be good for hypnosis. I knew about the phenomenon, but I didn’t know what it was like to be hypnotized.

        He started to work on me and soon I got into a position where he said, “You can’t open your eyes.”

        I said to myself, “I bet I could open my eyes, but I don’t want to disturb the situation: Let’s see how much further it goes.” It was an interesting situation: You’re only slightly fogged out, and although you’ve lost a little bit, you’re pretty sure you could open your eyes. But of course, you’re not opening your eyes, so in a sense you can’t do it.

        He went through a lot of stuff and decided that I was pretty good.

        When the real demonstration came he had us walk on stage, and he hypnotized us in front of the whole Princeton Graduate College. This time the effect was stronger; I guess I had learned how to become hypnotized. The hypnotist made various demonstrations, having me do things that I couldn’t normally do, and at the end he said that after I came out of hypnosis, instead of returning to my seat directly, which was the natural way to go, I would walk all the way around the room and go to my seat from the back.

        All through the demonstration I was vaguely aware of what was going on, and cooperating with the things the hypnotist said, but this time I decided, “Damn it, enough is enough! I’m gonna go straight to my seat.”

        When it was time to get up and go off the stage, I started to walk straight to my seat. But then an annoying feeling came over me: I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t continue. I walked all the way around the hall.

        I was hypnotized in another situation some time later by a woman. While I was hypnotized she said, “I’m going to light a match, blow it out, and immediately touch the back of your hand with it. You will feel no pain.”

        I thought, “Baloney!” She took a match, lit it, blew it out, and touched it to the back of my hand. It felt slightly warm. My eyes were closed throughout all of this, but I was thinking, “That’s easy. She lit one match, but touched a different match to my hand. There’s nothin’ to that; it’s a fake!”

        When I came out of the hypnosis and looked at the back of my hand, I got the biggest surprise: There was a burn on the back of my hand. Soon a blister grew, and it never hurt at all, even when it broke.

        So I found hypnosis to be a very interesting experience. All the time you’re saying to yourself, “I could do that, but I won’t”—which is just another way of saying that you can’t.

  • 2015 - Howie Mandel induced to shake hands with 10 people despite his extreme germophobia
  • 2016.03.10 - YouTube - Rob Dyrdek: “Lazy and smoking a lot of weed”
    • He says he got hypnotized by George Pratt for success and he attributes his success to it.
    • Rob: [NW: After being told by DC that they thought his career was over:] ...there's no way that this is that I'm done and this is the end and I'm not even gonna say it I'm just gonna prove it and I literally like left that place started searching for hypnotists right and found the hypnotist the great Dr. George Pratt who wrote a book called hyper success right unleashing like your true inner belief that you believe you were meant to be successful and I got hypnotized for success and then literally in that two-year span became the best skateboarder of my entire career but also to the very top of the industry
    • Graham: So this hypnotist that you went to you've you really believe this hypnotist was responsible for or played a critical role in you becoming successful?

      Rob: I believe so, yes. What I think it's a it's it's understanding the period where you were in your life and then ultimately: Why were you so scattered for so long?  Why were you so lost?  And why why did you spend three or four years like desiring and wishing rather than working?  And was it just that conversation of doubting me and someone questioning me that really turned on that much of a fire? [NW: He's referring to DC shoes telling him that they thought his career was done] It seems it seems unlikely, you know, and and to then go through that process and go through this idea of of only working on embedding subconsciously that you believe you were meant to be successful–nothing more, nothing less–and then you go and you make a run like I made, it's hard to believe otherwise, that it didn't have some sort of grand connection to it, you know?
    • Amazon - Hyper-Performance