Posted in Psychology & Medicine


Every person has had the experience of having a few seconds of brilliance just before their consciousness slips into sleep. During this short moment, we have some of the most creative and innovative ideas. Unfortunately, this is all lost by the time we wake up. This state is known as the hypnagogic state and has been well known since ancient Greece. Many philosophers and writers such as Aristotle and Edgar Allan Poe have written on the subject and how they received some of their greatest ideas in this state. 

Recent researches show that during hypnagogia, thought processes and cognition vastly differs to normal wakefulness. It appears that hypnagogic cognition is more based on the subconscious mind, with people in this state being more open to suggestion (e.g. hypnosis). Ideas seem to flow in a fluid yet illogical way and they are based on external stimuli, thus explaining the heightened suggestibility as the brain incorporates the surrounding into its thought process. The thought process is also less restricted, leading to openness and sensitivity. A process called autosymbolism occurs where abstract ideas that we are thinking are converted into concrete images. This explains the artistic inspiration seen in hypnagogia.

One of the more pronounced phenomena of hypnagogia is insight. It has been noted by many people throughout history that the moment before sleep is when we have the best ideas. For example, a chemist called August Kekulé realised that benzene was a ring structure after seeing an image of snakes biting each other’s tails to form a ring. Because of this, many famous artists and inventors tried to harness the power of hypnagogia through techniques such as the Dalí nap. Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Beethoven and Richard Wagner also practised similar techniques to gain insight into a problem that they were trying to solve or bring fresh ideas.

Another fascinating side of hypnagogia is the strange sensory phenomena associated with it. As in the case of sleep paralysis (which usually occurs in hypnapomp – the state between sleep and waking up), people often report strong hallucinations in the form of bright colours, geometric shapes, or even nightmarish visions (such as a ghost sitting on your chest). Other senses are affected as well, such as hearing whispering (commonly associated with the nightmarish hallucinations mentioned above) or out-of-body experiences. Hypnic jerks are also common, where the person jerks awake just before drifting off to sleep. This is thought to be caused by the brain misinterpreting sleep as “death” or the body shutting down, leading it to jolt the system back to life. 

Finally, an interesting psychological phenomenon is the Tetris effect, where people who have spent a prolonged time on one activity cannot stop seeing images and thinking about that activity in the hypnagogic state. This was seen in people who had played too much Tetris seeing coloured bricks before they went to sleep. Other common versions of the Tetris effect include chess boards and pieces, feeling waves after being at sea and seeing words and numbers after working on documents for a long time.

The combination of insight, creativity and sensory illusions leads to hypnagogia causing strange “experiences”. Ergo, hypnagogia is now thought to explain many supernatural experiences such as ghost sightings, UFO abductions, premonitions and visions.

Posted in Science & Nature

Animal Hypnotism

Animals can be hypnotised just like humans. Strictly speaking, it is not hypnotism per se but more of a trance or putting the animal to “sleep”. An animal in trance is in a state of complete relaxation and is immobile, staying still as if it is sleeping as its heart rate and breathing slows. After a certain amount of time, the animal wakes up and acts as if nothing happened.

For example, flipping a rabbit on its back causes it to stay still. It merely twitches its nose but its limbs are completely stiffened. An alligator shows the same response when flipped.
A pheasant can be put into trance if its stomach is rubbed and an iguana falls asleep when stroked on the head as the heat sensing organs are activated and they feel relaxed.
When stroked on its most sensitive part, the nose, a shark freezes from the intense sensation (considering a shark dies if it stops swimming, this must be quite a pleasurable feeling for the shark).
If you turn a lizard on its back and rub its stomach, its diaphragm and respiratory organs are compressed and oxygen supply is limited. This causes the lizard to “turn off”, falling into a trance.

These strange responses are most likely a survival instinct. For example, if a rubber hose with a knot on the end is held in front of a mouse, it will stay absolutely still. This is because it mistakes it for a snake and is frozen from fear. Also, predators such as snakes focus their vision around movement sensing and thus are blind to immobile objects. Similarly, rabbits and alligators mentioned above are playing dead to avoid danger.

Unfortunately, this instinct produces the opposite effects sometimes. Chickens are a good example.
When you press a chicken’s head against the ground and draw straight lines in front of it, it suddenly goes quiet as if possessed. Even after taking off the hand, it stays still. This technique was devised to make the process of cutting off the chicken’s head an easier task. Also, a chicken can be put into trance by gently tucking its head under its wing and then swinging the whole chicken side to side about 10 times. A turkey can be put to sleep the same way.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Open Hand

90% of human communication is non-verbal. This shows how facial expressions and body language have a powerful effect on our subconscious. Even the position of the hand can send a clear signal.

An open hand suggests peace, love and openness. Because of this, if the other person has his or her palm showing, you will feel more comfortable talking with them and view them in a more positive light. Jesus is often pictured in a pose with his arms stretched and palms showing, sending the message: “I would like to embrace you”. The same signal is used to initiate a hug.

On the other hand, a closed hand sends a cold message of strictness and professionalism. Therefore, people who are debating or negotiating often have their hands flat on a table or their lap to symbolise their resolution and defiance.

From this analysis, we can tell that an open hand is a good way to gain the affection of another person. Furthermore, this body language can manipulate the other person’s subconscious.

From my experiments, I found that when given the choice between a closed fist facing up and another fist facing down, the subject would choose the fist with the palms facing up about 90% of the time. Although it is a crude test, it definitely beat the 50:50 statistics that is expected.
This experiment was probably affected by other factors. Especially because people will usually choose the unusual choice due to curiosity (as when told to pick a hand, the person will usually have both fists facing down) and due to the psychology of “the unusual fist will probably contain something more interesting”. Also, most people who chose the downward-facing fist later said that they “deliberately chose the other fist because they felt they were supposed to choose the upwards-facing fist”. Thus, they too were first attracted to the unusual fist.

This test must be done suddenly to bypass the logical conscious mind and have an effect on the subconscious mind. If you take too long to explain the test, the results become skewed. 
Bypassing the conscious mind to suggest an acceptable choice to the subconscious mind – this test shows the basic principles of hypnosis.