28  Are We Being Hypnotised?


This session explores the relation between the objective and subjective worlds and helps students to reflect on the ways that people that can influence other’s minds.

Explain to the students that the outside world, the environment, is what we call the objective world. It is the world we can examine with our senses, and with technological / scientific equipment. The inner world, our feelings, preferences and so on, is the other side of the coin. It is called the subjective world. Inside, in the subjective world, we are a seething mass of emotions, daydreams intentions and so on.


Since we all have to interact with the objective world, our subjective life is influenced by the objective world. Ask the students to say:

Point out that there are various ways in which people try to control or manipulate the minds of others. We all do it to each other, especially with friends and family members. Can they think of examples? When they try to persuade others to their point of view, or to get what they way, what is their own dominant style? Ask them to imagine a line across the room: at one end is ‘gentle persuasion’ and at the other is ‘violent coercion’. Encourage them to respond to such questions as:

Can you give examples of each extreme?


Show students a range of current TV adverts, e.g, from: www.tellyads.com

Ask the students to identify, in each case:

After some time exchanging views, get some feedback and then show a clip from one of Derren Brown’s programmes, e.g: www.youtube.com/watch?v=js_unuMakWc or www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy75GtKsOAw.

Ask the students to say how they think Derren Brown works these ‘hypnotic’ tricks and to respond to other questions such as:


Point out that various forms of political persuasion and ‘charisma’ have been used by individuals to get people to follow them, even to war. Do students know from History lessons, e.g., how figures like Hitler and Stalin got people on their side? Do they think that they could resist such social and psychological pressure themselves?

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

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