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Antisocial Behavior and Hypnosis

Antisocial Behavior and Hypnosis

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Published by MansonCaseFile
Research paper by MK-ULTRA psychiatrist Dr. Martin T. Orne, published in 1965.
Research paper by MK-ULTRA psychiatrist Dr. Martin T. Orne, published in 1965.

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Journal
oj
Personality
and
SocialPsychology
1965,
Vol.
1, No.
3,
189-200
SOCIAL CONTROL
IN
THE
PSYCHOLOGICAL
EXPERIMENT:
ANTISOCIAL
BEHAVIOR
AND
HYPNOSIS
l
MARTIN
T.
ORNE
AND
FREDERICK
J.
EVANS
2
Pennsylvania
Hospital,
The
Institute,
Philadelphia,
and
University
of
Pennsylvania
Rowland and Young
found
that
hypnotized Ss were willing to carry out suchapparently antisocial actions as grasping a dangerous reptile, plunging their
hand into concentrated
acid,
and throwing the
acid
at an
assistant.
However,
only
informal
attempts
were made to show
that
the Ss perceived the
acts
asdangerous,
or to
demonstrate
that
the
requested behavior exceeded
the
broadlimits
of
social control implicit
in the
context
of a
psychological
experiment.Theexperiment conductedbyYoungwasreplicated exactly,and hisresults
confirmed.
However, nonhypnotizable
Ss
simulating hypnosis
to a
"blind"
E,
and even normal, waking control Ss, complied with the same requests. Ss in-
variablyreported they
were convinced
the
activities
were safe because they
were
participating in research conducted by competent, responsible scientists.
It is
concluded
that
the
tasks were perceived
by Ss as
being within
the
limits
of
legitimate requests made in an experimental context. The present study doesnot answer the question whether antisocial behavior can be elicited underhypnosis. However,itdemonstratesthenatureofcontrol groups essentialfora valid test of the antisocial hypothesis, and illustrates the broad range ofbehavior legitimized
in an
experimental
context.
SOCIAL
CONTROL IN THE PSYCHOLOGICALEXPERIMENT
There
has
been increasing awareness
by
behavioral scientists
that
the
subject
in an
1
This study
was
conducted
at the
University
of
Sydney,
Australia,
during a visit by the seniorauthor,
June-August
1960.
It was
supported
in
part
by Research Grant AF-AFOSR-88-63
from
the Air
Force
Office
of
Scientific Research
and by a
grant
from
the
Human Ecology Fund.
We
wish to
thank
A. G. Hammer, then actingHead
of the
Department
of
Psychology,
for his
cooperation with
the use of
departmental
facilities.
We
wish
to
express
our appreciation to theDepart-
ments
of
Chemistry
and
Biochemistry, University
of
Sydney,and theRadiology Departmentof theRoyal Prince
Alfred
Hospital, Sydney,
for
donatingequipment. We are indebted to the Department of
Zoology,
University
of
Sydney,
for
loaning
theharmless
reptiles. We are particularly indebted to
Fred Matthews,herpetologist,for his
willingness
to
loan, tend, and handle the venomous reptile through-out thestudy. Withouthisgenerous help thisstudy would not have been completed.
We
are appreciative of the valuable comments
made during thepreparationof
this
report
by
Peter
B.
Field, Lawrence
A.
Gustafson,
Ulric
Neisser,
Donald N.
O'Connell, Emily
C.
Orne,
and
Ronald
E.
Shor.
We
also wish
to
thank Eleanor DeRubeis
for
hervaluable editorial assistance.
2
When
the
experiment
was
conducted
the
juniorauthor
was
supported
by a
University
of
SydneyResearch
Studentship
in the
Department
of
Psy-
chology.
experimental investigation
is not apassive
entity. Experimental evidence (Orne, 1959;Orne
& Scheibe,
1964)
has
demonstrated
that
the
subject
takes
an
active role
in
interpreting
the
nature
of the
investigation
and
makes
implicit assumptions about
the
hypotheses
being
investigated
which influence
his
per-
formance
in the experimental situation. Noris an experimenter
free from
the influence of
his own
investment
in the
hypotheses
he is
investigating.In a
series
ofstudies Rosenthal
has shown
that
experimenters who have dif-ferent
hypotheses
about
the
outcome
of a
particular experiment
may
obtain resultswhich
are
congruent with their hypotheses
(for
example, Rosenthal, 1964; Rosenthal
&
Fode,
1963). Such studies imply
that
it is
necessary
to
consider
the
particular nature
of
thespecial interpersonal interaction which
exists
between
the
subject
and the experi-
menter in psychological experiments.Orne (1960, 1962)
has
emphasized
that
the
experimental context legitimizes
a
verybroad range of behavioral requests. Subjectshave implicit
faith
that
experimenters
are
responsible people,
that
they will
not be
asked
to carry out
tasks
which
are
devoid
of
mean-
ing,
and
that
regardless
of
appearances
they
189
 
190
MARTIN
T.
ORNE
AND
FREDERICK
J.
EVANS
will
not bepermittedto
suffer
anyharmbe-cause
of
obvioussocial
sanctions.
In a series of informal experiments in our
laboratory, it has
been
impossible
to
devise
a
task
which
the
subject perceives
as
completely
"meaningless"
within
the
context
of an ex-
periment.
For
example, subjects were con-
fronted
with
a
stack
of
paper,
each pagecontaining rowsofrandom digits.Theexperi-menter instructed subjects
to
continue adding
the
rows
of
numbers successively,
and
after
accurately completing each
page,
to
tear
it
into
a
minimum
of 32
pieces. Although sub-jects were given no reason to
justify
the
task,
they
continued
this apparently meaningless
endeavor
beyond the tolerance limits of the
experimenters
(Orne,
1962).
Frank (1944)hasreported some
informal
experiments in
which subjects continuedmeaningless
and
impossible
tasks,
includingtrying
to
balance
a
marble
on a
small steelball
and
transferring spilled mercury
to a
small bottle with
a
wooden paddle, even whenanassistant triedtoprevent them
from
trying
to
complete
the
tasks.
No
justification
was
given for
performing
the
tasks other thanthat
it was an
experiment.
In the
same study, Frank also reportedthat subjects continued eating several un-savory, unsalted soda crackers
for
timeperiods
in
excess
of
what
would
seem reason-able for such an unpleasant
task,
and longerthan subjects who were told they could stopeating them as soon as they wished. Shor
(1962)
has
reported that subjects were willing
to
accept extremely high levels
of
electricshock when requested
to
select
a
level
of
intensity which
was as
high
as
they couldtolerateforexperimental purposes. Milgram(1963) has
shown
that subjects continue toadminister what
they
believe
are
extremelyhighlevels
of
electric shock, exceeding
ap-
parently
dangerous
levels,to
another "sub-
ject"
in the context of a learning experiment.
The
limits
of
boredom, tolerance, pain,
and
fatigue
which are accepted as reasonable re-quests within an experimental situation seemextremely broad. However, the actual range
of
social
and
behavioral control legitimizedby the special contract implicit in the sub-ject's agreement
to
participate
in a
psy-chological experiment
has
received
few ex-
plicit
tests.
ANTISOCIAL
BEHAVIOR
AND
HYPNOSIS
It is
generally considered
thata
hypnotizedsubject relinquishes considerable social
and
behavioral control
to the
hypnotist.
A
subject
frequently
reports
that
he
felt
compelledtocarry out the commands of the hypnotist;
that
he
could
not
resist
the
suggestions made
by the
hypnotist.
This
apparent increase
in
the amount of social control relinquished by
the
hypnotized subject
to the
hypnotist
has
raised
the
unresolved question whether
a
subject can be compelled, under hypnosis, to
perform
apparently antisocial acts or be-havior which is perceived as
injurious
anddangerous to
self
or others. Estabrooks(1943), Rowland (1939),
Weitzenhoffer
(1949), Wells (1941), Wolberg (1945),
and
Young (1952) have
stated
that,
providedadequate techniques
are
used, hypnotizedsubjects
may be
compelled
to
carry
out ap-
parently antisocial actions,
while
Erickson
(1939),
Meares
(I960),
and
Schilder
and
Kauders
(1927)
have disagreed with thisviewpoint.
The
extensive literature present-ing the
conflicting
viewpoints has been re-viewed elsewhere
(Barber,
1961;
Orne,
1960;
Weitzenhoffer,
1953). The present
investigation is
concerned with
two
studies
frequently
cited
as
evidence that hypnosis
can be
used
to
induce
antisocialbehavior.
Rowland (1939).
Two
deeply hypnotizedsubjects were
askedto
reach through
the
window
of a box and pick up a large, active,diamondback
rattlesnake.
This
request
was
rationalized
to
them
by
suggesting that
the
snake
was a
coil
of
rope.
One
hypnotized
subject
immediately complied, but was pre-
vented
from
handling
the
snake
by a
pane
of
invisible glass. The other subject came out of
the
hypnotic
state
and
refused
to
continuewith the experiment. Another two hypnotizedsubjects
attempted to grasp the
snake,
even
when
no attempt was made to delude them
about
what
it
was. Similarly,
two
hyp-notized subjects were requested to throw con-centrated sulphuric acid, which
they
had
been told was very dangerous, at the
face
ofan assistant. The two subjects complied withthis request.
 
SOCIAL
CONTROL
IN
EXPERIMENTS
191
By way of
control, forty-two persons,
of
everyage and degree of sophistication, were asked to
come
to the
laboratory
and
pick
up the
snake.
. . .
With one exception all the persons were not onlybadly frightenedat theappearanceof thesnake,but would
not
come close
to the box . . .
[Row-
land,
1939,
p.
116].
Young
(1952).
In a replication of Row-land's
study,
Young asked eight deeply hyp-
notized
subjects to carry out similar
tasks.
Young
reported,
The
results show that seven
of the
eight subjectswouldenter into
a
situation
which
unhypnotizedobserversshrank
from,
the
subjects
carrying
outsuggestions
tohandle snakesand
throw
nitric acid
under
conditions
from
which they themselves
re-
coiled
in the
waking
state
[p.
4051.
One
major
aim of the
present study
was
to
confirm
these results by replicating in'exactdetail
the
procedures outlined
by
Young
(1952).
It is apparent
from
the ac-counts
of
both Rowland
and
Young
that
strong pressure was placed upon the hyp-
notized
subjects to comply with the requestedantisocial acts. However, Rowland did notexert similar pressure to comply when testing
the
independent, informal waking control
group, nor did
Young
confront
his
hyp-notized subjects with
the
same type
of
pres-
surein the
subsequent waking condition.Consequently,
it is
doubtful
if the
informalcontrols usedbythese investigators provideany answer to the fundamental question
being
considered: does
the
degree
of
social
control
which occurs under hypnosis actually
exceedthe
amount
of
social
and
behavioralcontrol already existing in the experimental
situation?
SOCIAL CONTROL, ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOR,
AND
HYPNOSIS
The basic question may be formally
stated:
does
the
degree
of
social
and
behavioral con-trol under hypnosis exceed
that
which islegitimized
by the
special social
and be-
havioral control implicit in the experimental
situation?
In
order
to
determine
that
subjects have
indeed
been compelled
to
carry
out any
actions which they would not have carriedout without the intervention of hypnosis it
must
be
shown
that:
1.
Subjects in hypnosis carry out
actions
which
are not
performed
by nonhypnotized
control subjects.
2.
Control subjects must be
treated
in anidentical fashiontohypnotized subjects;both
in
regard
to
explicit instructions
as
well
as
implicit cues.
If
these actionsare to bedesignatedasantisocial or self-destructive it must be shown
that
they
are
perceived
as
such
by the
sub-
jects,
i.e., truly dangerous or
harmful
tothemselves
or
others.
The
implicit cues
are
of
crucial importance.
A
subject
is
aware
of
certain
realities
imposed
by the
experimental
situation.
It is as
clear
to a
subject
as it is to
any scientist
that
no
reputable investigatorcan risk injuring
a
subject during
the
course
of
an experiment. A subject knows
that
an
experimenter
will outline
in
advance
any
possible specific and deliberate danger which
could
be
associated with
his
actual
par-ticipation
in a
study. Consequently,
any re-
quested behavior which appears
to a
subjectto be dangerous at
face
value may be re-interpreted in the context of a laboratorysituation. In
spite
of the
apparent
objectivedanger
of a
task
it may
nonetheless
be
per-
ceived
to beharmless becausethesubjectrealizes
that
necessary precautions will betaken to avoid possible injury to him. If anapparently dangerous
task
isrequestedof asubject duringanexperimentthesubject'scompliance,
or
refusal,
may
depend
on
whether
he
perceives
that
he is
expected,
or
is
not
expected,
to
carry
out the
task.
It is
particularly vital in an experiment whichdepends
on a
contrived situation
to
determinewhat the subject, in
different
groups, per-ceives about
the
experimental situation
and
what is implicitly communicated to the sub-
ject
within
different
groups.Even though the experimenter is extremely
careful
to
treat
all
groups
alike,
subtle
and
unintentional cues
may be
differentially com-municated by him to subjects in
different
experimental groups, particularly when the
experimenter
knows to which experimental
group
a
specific
subject belongs.
These
experimenter
influences
on
results have beendemonstrated
in
both animal
(Rosenthai
&

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