Derren Brown’s Assassin

Hi Y’all

***Video Below***

If you are in the UK you will have had the opportunity to watch the first of Derren Brown’s The Experiments series. This first episode was called The Assassin and took the form of an intricate experiment to find out whether a regular person could be ‘hypnotically programmed’ to become assassinate a public figure.

Now I already know that many Hypnotherpists are horrified that  Derren would do this (“it is going to frighten the public/give them the wrong idea”) but I really enjoyed the show and welcome the discussion it raises.

In the video I have discussed some of the key points regarding the overall concept.  It is not a complete breakdown and has avoided ‘spoilers’. There is a lot more to say about Derren’s excellent show (a return to form for Derren, IMO), much of which, I’m sure, will come out int the comments section below the video (If you have anything to say or ask, please do contribute to the discussion!)

ADDENDUM (23rd October 2011):

I want to be clear that I am NOT saying that ‘what you see is what you get’ with Derren’s show.  When I say that it is possible to ‘hypnotically’ influence someone to perform an assassination, I don’t necessarily mean ‘put them into trance and give them a post-hypnotic suggestion’! As most people who have followed this blog will know, I view hypnosis as something subtler than that which is presented by ‘old school’ models of hypnosis.

Derren achieved what he achieved within a particular context, much of what is presented is about PRESENTATION rather than getting results. If the CIA ever experimented with classic ‘induction based’ hypnosis to ‘programme’ assassins, I am absolutely sure they would have dropped it in favour of more effective methods that are better suited to their needs and contexts.

Remember, Derren is not just doing hypnosis, he is also presenting it… selling the hypnosis itself!

2nd ADDENDUM (24th October 2011):

To address concerns of ‘psychological manipulation’ through formal hypnosis…

It is true that people can be manipulated during a formal hypnosis ‘session’, but it is also true that they can be (and are) manipulated during any other human interaction.

The subtleties of human psychology and communication are always at play in every interaction we partake in, and in the ‘Assassin’ example it is not that Derren puts this guy into a ‘trance’ that makes him influenceable in this way.

The real ‘hypnosis’ here was the stuff going on underneath of the surface of formal hypnosis as presented.

And I want to make this absolutely clear:

The guy on the show was not ‘controlled’, he was INFLUENCED!

There is a difference. He was not a zombie, because hypnosis is NOT absolute mind control.

Real hypnosis is subtler – it is the culmination of the subtle communication and psychology stuff that lies beneath the surface and  makes the ‘formal processes’ work. And, of course, you can use any amount of that subtle communication and psychology stuff outside of the context of ‘formal hypnosis’.

Anyhows… enjoy the vid!

If you would like to contribute to the discussion or comment in any way, please do so below!

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Facebook Discussion

72 Comments

  • Daniel Boije

    October 23, 2011

    Naturally, as always brilliantly and simply amazing presentation by Derren, finally someone had the guts end recourses to do it right out in the open.

  • Leng

    October 23, 2011

    I think the only way to know whether people can be hypnotically programmed to become an assassin is to do it for real. In derren’s show, the subject’s unconscious knew that he is in a DERREN BROWN SHOW and would decide that DERREN wouldn’t make him do anything unethical for real. Therefore, allowing himself to carry out the assassin.

    • James Tripp

      October 23, 2011

      Absolutely true Leng.

      One point of interest for me was at the end when the ‘programming’ triggered by the girl with the polka dot dress and the phone. He was hesitant in going through the process!

      Is it possible that he was weighing up what was happening and what would be an appropriate response? Was he thinking (either consciously or otherwise) “well, this has all been set up by Derren and his team so it is probably what is meant to happen, and they wouldn’t really put anyone in danger”?

      All very possible!

      Another thing that I wondered about – how come the subject didn’t go into ‘Marksman Mode’ when he saw the polka dot dress in the playback?

      All the very best

      James

      • Ian

        January 19, 2012

        I’d long been considering the puzzle over why he didn’t turn ‘Marksman Mode’ when the video was replayed (also it should be noted that this also induced amniesia).
        I first thought maybe, before being brought back to see Derren with Stephen, he was given hypnotic instructions to now ignore the pattern.
        But just the other day i saw a program, which by chance i noticed something which revealed another possibility- on tv when they show people watching tv/computer they often CGI to superimpose directly an image of the video to improve clarity. So it occured to me, maybe they showed him a black & white verson for him & then superimposed a colour version for the home audience. He went into ‘Marksmen Mode’ when he saw the *blue* & white pattern not *black* & white

  • Charlie

    October 24, 2011

    Personally I think that there was enough there to believe that the subject really would have gone through with it.

    Of course “this is just a show” is just another frame that is easily manipulated. As can “this is just an experiment” or “this is just for a laugh.”

    Rather than dismiss them as proving that hypnosis can’t be used for anti-social purposes, we should become more aware of how these kinds of frame can so easily provide the context for anti-social behaviour.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      “Rather than dismiss them as proving that hypnosis can’t be used for anti-social purposes…”

      Who’s dismissing who, Charlie?

      All the very best

      James

  • Jonathan Chase

    October 24, 2011

    James. Of course hypnosis can be used for any purposes at all. Murder is a perspective not an actuallity. I think you’re reading way too much into what was basically an excellent bit of theatre. {I’m presuming you’re not just jumping on the marketing band wagon here}

    Charlie, everything is easily manipulated. At least your understanding of everything is, which is the same thing really.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      Hi Jonathan

      You seem to be a little off the mark… reading too much into what you think I’m reading in!

      Just to help you out here, if you read the post you will have read:

      “I want to be clear that I am NOT saying that ‘what you see is what you get’ with Derren’s show”

      and

      “Remember, Derren is not just doing hypnosis, he is also presenting it… selling the hypnosis itself!”

      And watching the video, you’ll notice that I give some general perspectives on the concept rather than discussing the specifics of the show.

      So you’ll see I’m not reading anything at all into the show, let alone “way too much”.

      James

      • Laura

        October 25, 2011

        “…selling the hypnosis itself!” Yes. The understanding of hypnosis that Derren presents is yet another “context” or frame. He certainly is brilliant at setting up those frames of reference and ultimately, isn’t that what we base our understanding and even our perception of reality itself upon? The man is a natural salesman, and if he hadn’t gone into show-biz, he’d be selling us wonder cures for a million bucks or some such, and leave us wanting more. I for one am enormously grateful that he seems bent on educating us to these wonders rather than simply fleecing us with them.

    • Ilkin

      October 24, 2011

      Jonathan agree with you on everything is easily manipulated but only with those who allow themselves to be manipulated (at least once).

  • Brian Halliday

    October 24, 2011

    I didn’t watch the show. But this is something I have thought about for many years. I believe there may be an additional aspect not mentioned. I believe that there are people who have the potential for murder or homicide buit into their psyche for whatever reason.

    I am pretty sure that a percentage of the public could be manipulated or hypnotised into killing another person. I have no idea what that percentage is. But over the years doing shows I have had the odd moment where this belief was formed.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      It was a good show Brian. A return to form for Derren Brown, IMO. Do watch it if you get the chance.

      J

  • I liked the show as entertainment, but the idea reminded me a lot of the plot to Zoolander!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wleJmrlbsMc

  • Mike Brackley

    October 24, 2011

    I watched the Derren Brown show and was more impressed by the bits around the iced water than the assassination.

    If we take the information given about the water temperature and the thermal images at face value (and we probably shouldn’ given it’s Derren brown), then the ability of the mind to control how the body responds to extreme discomfort was very impressive.

    I was less persuaded by the assassination itself. This looked as though it had a strong element of social compliance to it. As part of the set-up, the assassin was shown a case with a gun in it, told it was loaded and was asked to give it to someone (Derren I think) when he saw them. I don’t know anyone who would have accepted that case without question and it served as a big ‘hint’ about what was likely to follow – particularly to anyone who had seen The Heist show previously.

    Being told verbally whilst in the theatre that Stephen Fry was the target legitimised the process, whilst the assassin’s delay in responding to the ‘programming’ looked like someone at least evaluating the options.

    Overall, it looked like someone reducing the level of inhibition to do something anti-social rather than programming the mind.

    Still very impressive though.

    Almost as impressive as the fact that no-one in the audience did anything after Stephen fry had been shot by a guy who still had a gun.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      “Overall, it looked like someone reducing the level of inhibition to do something anti-social rather than programming the mind.”

      I would be inclined to agree with that to a point!

      J

    • Laura

      October 25, 2011

      Actually, the non-reaction of the crowd is quite a common phenomena, provided there was no “leader” type present. Psychologically speaking, if there are two people present, one or the other would be likely to take some action. The likelihood of anyone taking action drops precipitously with groups of three or more. People will delay acting while waiting for some cue from someone else about what to do whenever anything unexpected happens. Leaders are rare, probably more rare than somnambulists.

  • Ilkin

    October 24, 2011

    What makes it different to The Milgram Obedience Experiment? To me it is the same thing.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      I Agree Ilkin.

      There is no need for formal hypnosis. Which was my point within the addendum:

      “If the CIA ever experimented with classic ‘induction based’ hypnosis to ‘programme’ assassins, I am absolutely sure they would have dropped it in favour of more effective methods that are better suited to their needs and contexts.”

      For some people ‘hypnosis’ is a special state (not for me), for some it is a particular formalised and stylised process that we can witness a hypnotist perform (such as was presented by Derren in the show). For me, ‘hypnosis’ is the culmination of the subtle communication and psychology stuff that makes the formal processes work.

      Of course, you can use any amount of that subtle communication and psychology stuff outside of the context of ‘formal hypnosis’, and the Milgram effect is for sure part of that which is going on below the surface of hypnosis. Authority is powerful, and Derren clearly has it with this guy within this context. That is part of the package here.

      Derren and his team, of course, know this, and will use everything at their disposal (within the range of their criteria for acceptability) to make what they want to have happen, happen (and to present it in such a way as to create the effect that they want).

      All the very best

      James

      P.S. I emphasise “part of that which is going on”, because there are a lot more layers to this than with Milgram (Milgram is a straight behavioural manipulation, Derren is creating a much more intricate reality for the subject to buy into here).

  • Yos

    October 24, 2011

    It is really interesting. I tell clients/people during pre-talk that they have control over their action and they will not do what they do not want. But with this action of DB I saw the contradiction in my pre-talks. There is a bitter taste in people’s mind that they can be manipulated during a hypnosis session.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      This is true, but it is also true that they can be manipulated during any interaction.

      The subtleties of human psychology and communication are always at play, and it is not that Derren puts this guy into a ‘trance’ that makes him influenceable in this way.

      To be clear the guy on the show was not ‘controlled’, he was influenced!

      The real hypnosis was the stuff going on underneath of the surface of formal hypnosis.

      All the very best

      James

  • Peter Kewin

    October 24, 2011

    Important point is that derren is a friggin genius – entertainer, hypnotist, manipulator of perception, whatever – the public could be scared, but they could also wake up to the reality that reality is …… what images vibrate in their sub-concious mind – and that if they do not chose those images, nurture and strengthen the ones they desire, then they are prey to the programmed images of mass media. Likewise they could understand the immense help possible from a trained hypnotist , working ethically in partnership and trust. Also of interest is that I’ve never seen a lot of Darren defending what he does – a sign of a very competent, confident performer – his results speak for him
    Pete

  • frank

    October 24, 2011

    As ever, a thoughtful and valuable deconstruction of what is possible with hypnosis under certain circumstances. I agree with you that what we call hypnosis is not a single phenomenon but a complex matrix of different techniques for manipulating our preconceptions and beliefs about the world. Context – social, moral etc – is everything and Derren Brown is a master of those techniques. Reality, for want of a better word, is plastic.

    I find hypnosis fascinating because, properly understood (and I must say, James, that your take on it is the best I’ve found so far) it is as much at the cutting edge of our understanding of the world and of ourselves as any hard science: the more we discover in physics or neurology for example, the more we find that the conventional dualisms of mind/body, matter/energy or time/space disappear or are merely artificial constructs masking a deeper reality.

  • Dave Chatten

    October 24, 2011

    I thought it was interesting that near the start he asked 2 psychologists i think they were if you could turn ordinary people into killers, to which they replied no….. my mind jumped straight to the concentration camps where this was achieved on a massive scale, I learnt recently that hitler had lessons from a guy that was a magician and hypnotist, i think alot of it has to do with who has the strongest reality dominates others reality.

  • Great Explanation. well for me anything is possible its just like a knife can be used to save a person in surgery and it can be used to assassin

  • ali

    October 24, 2011

    I have done lots of self-hypnosis and therapy hypnosis on others. Based on my experience, we can only “influence” others by hypnosis, not “control” them.
    It’s like that they have their past beliefs there, but they feel a mild impulse to implement new behavior.
    and after all, the belief “to be nice and unharmful to others” has been sculpted into our brains in every way for so looooong, since we were babies. could it really be changed with couple of hypnosis sessions?! I doubt that.
    I also like to hear you comment on the use of “mentalism and misdirection” in this show. Did Derren use anything like that? …maybe he is getting it with another tool and calling it just hypnosis?

  • Brian Halliday

    October 24, 2011

    If you ask me a better phrase for reality is that ” reality is always more than perception and reality is always more than any word, label or verbal expression”.

    Therefore the word hypnosis isn’t the thing, the thing is always more – everything else is just a map.

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      Hi Brian

      If I had a ‘thumbs up’ function on here, I would ‘thumbs up’ that comment! (consider it thumbs-upped!)

      J

  • John Gill

    October 24, 2011

    What we now know is that Derren had months (his words not mine) to get the subject to the stage of committing the act! also the use of brainwashing would help

    • James Tripp

      October 24, 2011

      Totally true for sure. Everyone in the initial ‘selection audience’ would have been pre-selected.

      J

  • Korey Samuelson

    October 24, 2011

    Hi James.

    Will this frighten the public, give them the wrong idea? Perhaps. What I believe will be the point of discussion, more than the power and uses of hypnosis, will be whether the individual would consider himself susceptible to this form of influence. “Could I be influenced to do such a thing? No way. Not me. I’m moral and good. I’d do the right thing.”

    I’m reminded of a point my college Psychology teacher said when we were discussing the results of the Milgram experiment. He said the people most likely to resist being influenced by the ‘authority figure’ were the ones who believed they might possibly have it in them to be influenced to do such a horrible thing.

    Those who were vehement in their capacity to resist (“Not me. No way.”) were more likely to succumb to the influence.

    Another thought provoking post. A pleasure, as always.

    Korey

  • Alexander Busch

    October 24, 2011

    Hi,

    it was a great show, it was Derren Brown ok. But I question for example that the audience was not aware of this. I watched this scene a few times, and some of the people have a smile on their face. There was no panic at all. And that is a point I could hardly bring to mind. Maybe I would have jumped over the seates to get out or be down to the floor but sitting and waiting?
    Sorry I don’t beleive that, so maybe this isn’t the only thing he didn’t tell us accurately.

    Best regards from germany, Berlin

    Alex

    • Ilkin

      October 24, 2011

      Alex, I totally agree it is not possible the audience behave that way and who said they wasn’t aware? I think whole audience knew what is going on and they were instructed what to expect.

  • adrian

    October 24, 2011

    HI james ya i seen the show and im not so sure what to think maby you can answer for me
    do you think that he really didnt remember? and was the lie detector for real? iv tryed afew times in sessions just littles things like forgeting phone numbers’ birthdays’ but im not really sure if they really forget or just playing along. also what you said about the guy not going into marksman mood at the play back is interesting i hadnt spoted that im convinced the guy went with it because he new DB wouldnt harm him

  • Here are a few of the questions from the application form for the show

    What would you do if, when you visit the ATM to withdraw £100, it dispenses £200 because it has been incorrectly stacked with £20 notes and not £10 notes.
    Do you often know something is wrong but do it anyway? Explain.
    How important is it for people to keep promises, if they can, to their friends and why?
    How important is it, in general, for people to tell the truth to others and why?
    What would you do if you saw someone being beaten up?
    Would you ever resort to violence to solve a situation?
    How important is it for someone (without losing his or her own life) to save the life of a stranger and why?
    Would you kill an animal for your own dinner and how do you feel about the idea?
    Is it important for people to obey the law and why?

  • Louise Graves

    October 25, 2011

    Hi James,

    thanks for explaining this so well. It excites interest discussions with clients and I thank Derren for putting hypnosis in the news.

    Looking forward to learning more. Use the hand stick for resistant clients and have fun saying “Hey shall we do something that is going to help now?”

  • Dave Chatten

    October 25, 2011

    Ive been thinking about the audience reaction, surely if they were in on it they would have been told to act differently than they did………. i am sure if hte excact same crowd had witnessesd say the prime minister speak and that happened then the reaction would have been very different

  • Andy Brady

    October 25, 2011

    I always enjoy Derren Browns shows regardless of the subject matter, I just like the bloke. The Assasin was very much like ‘The Heist’ and ‘Hero at Thiry Thousand Feet’ in my opinion. The difference with The Assasin was that it was more stylishly done and flowed somewhat more credibly. I certainly rate Derren as an excellent hypnotist but I don’t view this show as an experiment. It was a beautiful piece of theatre and for me the best actor in the mix was Stephen Fry.

    Do I believe that you could hypnotise someone to respond to a trigger to kill a clebrity and then have complete amnesia for the event? Eh, no.

  • Gareth

    October 26, 2011

    For me, the trick was not to make the guy willing to kill, but to get him to see a human target as a paper target at the firing range.
    The only time this guy had ever fired a gun was at the target range with Derren, the “marksman mode” that he had willingly accepted as an aid to target shooting was hijacked. He said himself, once he had the amnesia removed, that all he saw was a target, like at the range, and he just went through the routine, in his mind he was not firing at a person at all.
    Also, it would have been good to see the stage from the “killer’s” perspective at the time, to see if the lighting on the stage was set so that Stephen Fry appeared to him as a silhouette resembling the targets he had practiced on, or to make sure that a target range target had not been flipped up or dropped into his line of sight. I wouldn’t put it past Derren.

  • austin

    October 26, 2011

    Hi james. Hope you are well.
    Darren Brown, Not a nice guy , I worked with him, Certainly not liked in the hypnotic
    or magic prof. He is out dated. rubbish ( AND if you read this Darren) why not stop putting other entertainers down, Like Sally Morgan.. For your own gains and to be in the public eye. Go back to childrens magic shows

    • Rob

      October 30, 2011

      Firsty his name is Derren, secondly sounds like jealousy to me, if you “worked with him” and are more “up to date”, why dont we see you on TV and on National Tours or see people speaking about you on internet forums. Perhaps this shows that it is just you doing childrens magic shows!

  • David Saville

    October 26, 2011

    A lot of what i think about it has been said, so I will say this: I liked his application of hypnosis to make him a better shot at at the shooting range. To so quickly become reasonably accurate is a testament to the importance of state above experience and skill. The only caveat is that Derren may have made the guy forget that he was a trained marksman!!
    I remember one episode where Derren made a girl forget that she was an experienced pianist. He made out he was using hypnosis to teach a novice how to play to that level, when actually it was an elaborate way to overcome performance anxiety.
    Did anyone see that? How do you think he managed to sustain the illusion over several weeks? With a somnambulist is there no limit to the duration of the phenomena?

  • Laura

    October 26, 2011

    David, didn’t he keep one guy asleep for 13 full hours while wheeling him onto a plane, flying him to Marakesh (or some such place), and wheeling him off again? He had ample opportunity to reinforce the state of forgetting in the example of the pianist, as he saw her and put her into trance many times that week, just as he had every opportunity to reinforce the sleeping state of the sap he stranded for a day in a foreign country.

    • David Saville

      October 26, 2011

      Hi Laura,
      He did, except in those two other examples, he had them under his influence or vacinity for most of the time, whilst with the pianist she would have lived her normal life except with a big piece missing for a lot longer.
      He may have had to manage the people in her life so that they didn’t pull her out of the illusion, or perhaps not.
      I suppose it touches on the nature of identity and how flexible and transient that truly is.
      I would be interested to know how her friends and family perceived her during that time. Did it change other things that they associated with the girl they knew?

      • Laura

        October 27, 2011

        That is assuming that the amnesia lasted between times at all. It is possible that it didn’t, but that the state became easier to achieve and maintain in the short interim instead, through repeated sessions.

        On the other hand, I am reminded of a Milton Erickson story in which amnesia for the session was induced in a client in which he could only remember having kept the appointment and the content of the session when he returned to the office, and even then, forgot immediately upon exiting the office, until allowed to remember. That client was a complete skeptic before this induction of amnesia.

  • David Saville

    October 26, 2011

    I meant one example!

  • Paul

    October 29, 2011

    Yeah, I agree to a point with James on what he says….if you have all the resources of DB, then it is very possible to influence someone to do this, or at the very least to change their beliefs and values about it to such a degree that they consider killing as a genuine option. I know a few guys from different armies, UK Royal Marine Commandos, South African Special Forces….just guys I’ve met through-out my own shallow dips into military life….and when they tell you about the conditioning they go through for being Sniper Specialists, you get a sense of how their minds are really rewired to become trigger pullers without considering the target as human…i.e. One guy I know has served in Afghanistan and has killed 3 people….at the time he was simply ordered to do it and he did it, they were armed insurgents….but he did not consider his actions after killing them….HOWEVER, he has left the forces a few years ago and he regrets every day the fact that he did what he did….because his values and beliefs have changed as he has became a civilian again……and he now has seeked help for this……BUT when he was in the context of what he considered the appropriate place (context)….he simply did what his conditioning and his orders required of him, in a highly mentally stressed situation…….

    So to answer, yes, I know that normal people can be conditioned to kill…..I was kindah amazed to read some comments suggesting that this is tough to do, I completely disagree…..the army essentially instills this conditioning through the ritualisation of discipline, mental conditioning, obedience and comradery, etc. It is fundamental to how they train soldiers and this begins in basic soldiering training…thats part of the reason for orders being barked at you by a higher rank, part of the reason for square bashing for hours on end…..its all conditioning to get you simply to obey the orders of your seniors without question…..and the conditioning is so pervasive and sometimes even subtle that you are not aware of it….for example, when you walk around Cathal Brugha Barracks (Ireland), even in civvies clothes, you get barked at by higher ranks to take hands out of your pockets and if you don’t, they come over and make sure you do….not pleasantly, lol…..and they give you an earful about you will obey them or else!! So they essentially control every aspect of your personality to root out any free thinking and to instil obedience to obey…..they control when you go to sleep, when you get up, when you eat, when you use the loo, when you talk, etc…..see how it works?

    So yes, lol…..I believe it can certainly be done with non-suggestive types as per military training etc….I definitely believe it can be done with someone who is highly suggestive and who is exposed to the correct context and environment…..I have not seen DB’s show but I think it sounds kindah tame compared to military conditioning…..if they had put that guy through normal military training and did some belief and value reframing, of course he would kill someone if asked to do so……it’s like the young guys who travel from the UK to train in Pakistans ‘religious schools’ and come back wanting to wage terrorist war…..they are conditioned, beliefs and values are reframed and they deeply believe in their ‘own’ motives…..these motives being whatever they were conditioned to believe through repeated learning in Pakistan….

    Anyway, thats my own opinion….or is it my own opinion??? lol…..maybe I have been influenced? Is it possible?? :)

    • James Tripp

      October 30, 2011

      Hi Paul

      “I was kindah amazed to read some comments suggesting that this is tough to do, I completely disagree…..the army essentially instills this conditioning through the ritualisation of discipline, mental conditioning, obedience and comradery, etc. It is fundamental to how they train soldiers and this begins in basic soldiering training…”

      I totally agree with you there, and the methods the army use will be more effective than ‘formal’ hypnosis! This is why, I believe, that if the CIA were ever looking into formal hypnosis as a means of conditioning assassins, they would have dropped it. There are better methods that better fit the context!

      Thanks for your contribution here Paul – excellent points well made!

      All the very best

      James

  • Sheila

    November 9, 2011

    This show was patent nonsense. First of all, DB tried to reinforce the “reality” of what he was doing with images of Robert Kennedy’s assassin, explaining that he maintained he had no knowledge or memory of the act, whereas this was patently nonsense as any quick Google search will show. The ice baths could easily have been staged – why did DB have to TELL the guy to step out after he’d been immersed – and why would he risk his whole career by potentially destroying the emotional life of someone who seemed totally undisturbed at being tricked into killing on national television? Any normal, peace-loving person would be tortured by the thought – and no, I don’t buy into the suggestion that a simple tap on the shoulder and words of reassurance about feelings of wellbeing would be enough to overcome it. It was a piece of theatre in which a lot of actors got a bit of telly work.

    • Ilkin

      November 9, 2011

      Sheila, as per Derren recently posted he never uses stooges! Putting such a person in a ice bath is peace of cake for hypnotist of such a caliber. If you have doubts about hypnosis you should not be posting here. Do you research about what hypnosis can and cannot first.

    • James Tripp

      November 9, 2011

      Hi Sheila

      I totally agree that this is pure theatre – the creation of a reality which people either buy into or not. I would also argue that ALL overt hypnosis is theatre in the same way.

      I’m sure the ice bath was a trick, used in much the same way that some hypnotists will use the trick of ‘magnetic fingers’ – as a device to engineer belief in the frame being presented. To suggest that this show was put together with a cast of actors, however, is a misunderstanding of how this kind of ‘mentalism’ works. The other people in the restaurant would have been in on it, and there is a good chance that the people at Stephen Fry’s talk were in on it too, but there really is no need to employ other actors.

      All in all, this is not what it looks like – a fact which I would say is equally true of all overt hypnosis based on ‘trance rituals’. It is a brilliantly executed (if morally questionable) manipulation of behaviour and perception. The viewers are being psychologically manipulated, the subject is being psychologically manipulated. As a viewer, you didn’t buy the framing or the content, so it was unsuccessful for you.

      There is no reason for Derren to use a stooge for this, that is a real person who’s behaviour and perception was manipulated to a particular end. Was it exactly how it was presented on the surface? No way! But the reality, I would suggest, is more subtle rather than less subtle.

      All the very best

      James

  • Laura

    November 9, 2011

    It must be wonderful to walk through life with such certitude. I would ask if you are ever wrong, but I get the feeling the answer would be “Of course not! Asking is patent nonsense!” Do you crusade to set people right? I’m asking because I’m curious why you would otherwise bother to comment at all.

  • Sheila

    November 9, 2011

    Laura: You talk of certitude but you judge my whole character based on a paragraph of text! Of course I am wrong – often. But I understood this was a forum for expressing and opinion. That’s what I did. I don’t crusade to do anything. I just don’t like people who set out to make money out of our gullibility – it’s dangerous and it’s unfair.
    Ilkin: Apologies if my views don’t belong on this site, that’s a shame as I would have thought you’d have more of a case for promoting hypnotism in many forms and for many reasons if you were more open to honest debate. I shan’t bother you again.
    James: Many thanks for your considered and courteous response. I still don’t buy the no stooges line (and if you listen to the voiceover you will see that DB said none of the Stephen Fry audience were in on the secret) – I can understand they might wonder if it was part of the performance, but for me, their reactions didnt ring true and nor did the subject’s when the “truth” was revealed to him.

    Just my opinion. Thanks for letting me air it. Good luck with the site

  • Bonnie

    November 11, 2011

    I have absolutely no problem with the ice bucket being ‘real’ phenomena.
    I’m a ‘Yank’ and we were trained in a pain management course with that phenomena. (Hypnosis Motivation Institute.)
    It’s easy enough to try for yourself. Try one hand before you hypnotize yourself, Give suggestions of comfort (pretty much what Derren was saying) before you try the other hand.
    You’ll find that the hypnotized hand comes back to normal with no discomfort, and the hand that was immersed without hypnosis not only could not be kept immersed nearly as long, but has pain coming back to normal.
    Not very many people have heard of Derren Brown state side. I find the man amazing.
    I’ve watched some of his escapades on Youtube and came to the same conclusions the people did in his shows (The teddy bear in a classroom episode). How the hell does he do that? Incredibly subtle embedded commands, I suppose.
    James, I haven’t taken your courses yet, but plan on it.
    The founder of HMI died in ’02. You seem to independently have come up with some of the same theories he did about hypnosis. They’re stated very differently, of course, but have the same gist.

    • James Tripp

      November 16, 2011

      My suspicion around the ice water bath is that when the suggestion is removed, he doesn’t start shivering (which, I believe, would be the natural physiological response to being as cold as he would have been).

      All the very best

      James

  • David Saville

    November 16, 2011

    Hi James,
    Derren is a master of illusion and I am sure he exaggerated the effects of the ice bath.
    Something to note is that sports people regularly use ice baths for up to 20 mins post exercise to get rid of lactic acid, reduce inflammation and speed healing.
    It requires no special state to be able to do it, though mental focus is required to stay in.
    Also, when a person steps out of an ice bath they will get a heat sensation flowing through them as their body increases circulation to the extremeties.

    The frames he sets before doing his feats are so strong that they are often not questioned. There is much presupposed within everthing he does.

    Very impressive!

  • Laura

    January 20, 2012

    Here’s another thought, James, regarding why viewing the vid did not retrigger the conditioned state. One component is context. Just as watching a vid of a restaurant scene is not the same experience as eating a meal in that restaurant, so watching a vid is not the same as being there for hypnotic conditioning purposes.

    • James Tripp

      January 25, 2012

      Hi Laura

      An interesting perspective, but for me that doesn’t quite hold as he had already demonstrated the trigger being fired in two very different contexts, and there was no suggestion specifying context when setting it up.

      All the very best

      James

      • Ian

        January 25, 2012

        I totally agree James, a restaurant & watching a speech are very different contexts yet in both cases he turned into ‘marksman’ mode.
        Also the original trigger patten was first shown to him on a similar screen, that patten in any context created the amnesia (and then later also marksman) states.

        I’ve since thought the same reason must explain why did he not go into marksman but also a state of amnesia, so that when she left he would have no recolection of seeing it & so therefore not know that anything unusual had happened.

  • Laura

    January 25, 2012

    We obviously don’t see the whole story in one of DB’s presentations. For instance, here’s another thought. Do you think Derren may have “layered in” an inhibitory trigger as well, so that under some condition the “hitman” state would not be triggered? It could be anything, I suppose, something we wouldn’t necessarily notice as viewers. Just a thought.

  • David Saville

    January 25, 2012

    Hi Laura,
    The greatest trick that Derren does is his illusion of power. He makes us think that everything happens exactly as he planned.
    He used the footage of the guy that shot Bobby to reinforce the idea that it can work. That way when he stood up to shoot Stephen Fry, even after a VERY long wait between the trigger and the action, it appears that it worked as it was supposed to and fed into the conspiracy theorists among us.
    I wonder if in the moment the hesitation was a realisation of what was going on at some level and that in itself was enough to break the trigger.
    As James might put it: he came out of the loop.

  • Laura

    January 26, 2012

    Certainly a possibility. I, too, wondered about the hesitation at “the scene of the crime.” At that point he very much could have just been playing along.

  • Ian

    January 26, 2012

    I think it should be noted that he also paused before shooting when he was in the restaurant.
    When he shot the gun, as far as he was concerned he was back in the firing range shooting at a standard target, not in a restaurant/theatre etc shooting at a person.
    In the movies there is no hesitation before shooting, however in real life if you are going to shoot at a target range you don’t pick up the gun and immediately shoot, instead you pause to carefully take aim.
    To me this seems a more plausable explaination for his pause before shooting, rather than it being hesitation as he came out of the loop & deciding just to ‘play along’.

  • David Saville

    January 26, 2012

    The line between hypnotic phenomena and playing long is so faint that it barely exists. If he did play along then the commitment and consistency principle could have kicked in to rewrite the event. The Japanese have a saying “nobody lies like an eye witness”. History gets rewritten with every passing moment and the more you think about something the more it becomes embellished.
    Which reality is preferable to him do you think? He was playing along, could have stopped at any time and was never “under Derren’s spell” or he was one of the great Derren Brown’s chosen few who proved that mind control assassins are real and out there…..
    The hesitation I mentioned was before he got upto take aim. He stayed in his seat for a protracted period after the trigger had been unleashed. In the restaurant there was no such pause.
    We will never know what really happened, only our best guess. The same is true, I think, of the subject himself and of Derren.

  • Ian

    January 26, 2012

    As far as Derren layering an inhibitory trigger, rather than its purpose to *stop* the amnesia/hitman mode i think he may have instead layered in something as a second conditional factor before *creating* the mode to prevent anything from happening (merely just the amnesia could be dangerous enough let alone the added ‘hitman’ feature) should he happen to, by some fluke, see a similar patten elsewhere at some other stage between the initial session and the theatre.

  • Ian Carter

    December 23, 2013

    Whatever may or may not have happened with Derren Brown and Stephen Fry, I must just interject about the “conspiracy theory” that Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert Kennedy, as a “lone assassin”. Sirhan’s revolver held 8 bullets, and there were 14 shots recorded on tape, meaning that there was more than one shooter. Also, Sirhan was in front of Kennedy, yet the fatal shot came from behind Kennedy’s ear. Not a theory, but cold hard facts, verified by Richard Belzer in “Dead Wrong”.

    (Excellent site, by the way, James)

    • James Tripp

      March 7, 2014

      Thanks Ian

      I would suggest here that cold hard facts are a true rarity in life, as we distort reality through every act of perception and understanding. Indeed, it is this that makes hypnosis possible!

      best,

      James

  • Carlos Casados

    July 14, 2014

    Much of this is discussed by Derren Brown, in this video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD2zM-dpb0M

    Has anyone here seen this breakdown of the show that Derren Brown provides? Is this thread dead?

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