Recently in assignment #2 Category

Activation-Synthesis Theory Hunter Henke Post 2

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                The activation-synthesis theory was created in the 1960's and the 1970's by Alan Hobson and Robert Mccarley. This theory states that dreams reflect brain activity in sleep. During REM sleep our brains generate random neural signals. These signals activate different parts of our brains. According to the activation-synthesis theory, dreaming is our body's way of interpreting these signals. Diving into more detail, REM sleep is turned on by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  This neurotransmitter activates nerve cells in the pons, which sends signals to the thalamus. The thalamus then sends signals to the forebrain which attempts to interpret the signals in the form of a dream. This theory was important to psychology because it took a more reasonable approach to explaining why we dream. Prior to the activation-synthesis theory scientists such as Sigmund Freud believed that dreaming used symbols to illustrate how we wish things could be.  The development of the activation-synthesis theory allowed us to approach dreaming in a more scientific manner, and disproved any incorrect assumptions about why we dream.

                The activation-synthesis theory applies to many dreams I have encountered. I often notice that dreams tend to be unpredictable, and hard to recall in the morning. The idea that dreaming is simply randomly generated neural signals explains the haphazard pattern in my dreams.  This leaves me with a few questions about dreaming. Why do our brains send out these random neural signals? Are the signals sent randomly or in unidentified patterns? Is there any relation between our dreams and our emotions? Why did we evolve to incorporate dreams? We may not be able to answer these questions, but some scientists have developed hypotheses that better make sense of dreams. The link below shows short sections of a lecture in which a professor explores some theories of dreaming. One interesting idea is  that Freud's Dream protection Theory may still play a role in dreaming. The pattern of dreaming could be related to our emotions.

Lucid Dreaming - Dan Hodac - Assignment # 2

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I found chapter 5 of the Lilenfeld textbook to be quite intriguing. My favorite part was when they mentioned Lucid Dreaming. Lucid dreaming is when a person is dreaming but is aware that he/she is dreaming, thus giving them some to total control of their dreams as well as an improved dream recall due to its realness and vividness. The reason for my giddiness is that I have recently been trying to practice lucid dreaming. Yes! you heard me right! One can actually practice it. Turns out that lucid dreaming is actually a skill and not an inherent trait or disorder. Below is a link with some steps on how to practice for lucid dreaming.

Despite it being considered a skill, there are also some that have a "knack" for it. In other words, they don't need to practice to achieve it. Because many of these people do not even know what lucid dreaming is, some psychologists have theorized that lucid dreaming could be the cause of peoples claims of an out-of-body-experience or alien abductions ( 1 and 2 ). For out of body experiences, it is possible that a person had a lucid dream. Since lucid dreams are very vivid, the person may have been confused and thought that it was a real out of body experience, and that when they wake up, it is when their "soul" has returned to their body. An explanation for the claims of alien abductions could also be lucid dreaming. After watching a movie on aliens, such as that awesome Steven Spielberg movie about aliens :D , that person might have had a dream about being abducted by aliens. And that dream just happened to be a lucid dream. Being that the person would have some controls over their dreams, if they had expected to or are afraid of being abducted by aliens, its very possible that they could have had a lucid dream about it. 

The only problem for these claims is that they can't be proved, neither the claims nor the explanations. With the current technologies, scientists are unable to tell whether or not the person is having a lucid dream. Therefore, there is no way to tell if the person who claimed to be abducted by aliens actually had a lucid dream or not.  

I listened to Professor Peterson's first lecture before I began reading Chapter 5, which means that I wasn't yet thinking about sleep when I was learning about the biological view of consciousness.  That sounds unimportant (why does it matter which part to think about first?), but I found it intriguing.  I then read the chapter and saw that the text begins straight away with discussing sleep.  This got me thinking about what relationship may exist between sleep and consciousness.

Previously, I would have said that being asleep and being conscious were two very different states.  However, this chapter got me thinking about how sleep & consciousness relate to my experiences.  About five years ago, during a typical night of being unable to sleep because of a snoring husband, I noticed that his snores often stuttered, and sometimes suddenly stopped.  I watched him closely sleep-apnea.jpgand realized that he was actually stopping breathing, which led to a long process of him having sleep studies and eventually being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (pages 172-173 in our text).  At first no one believed him and even joked with him when he talked about his sleep issues, because he is thin (and the vast majority of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight).  However, after his breathing and brain activitycpap.png were monitored during several sleep studies (using a nocturnal polysomnogram in a lab setting and a portable monitor at home), the physician prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to keep his airway from collapsing during sleep. 

Aside from the fact that we need sleep to live and function, and anything that interferes with sleep can therefore interfere with our ability to function, how else does sleep apnea relate to psychology and consciousness?  When considering brain function and consciousness, our textbook mentions that people used to believe that consciousness was like an on/off switch (page 168), but I've observed the transitions between the five stages of sleep and wakefulness (page 169).  My husband, before he had the CPAP machine and on nights when he doesn't use it, would experience an apnea episode, and therefore wake up just enough to start breathing again (but rarely becoming completely awake), called an arousal or awakening.  He has these arousals all night long, which leads to him being in bed for 8-10 hours, but waking up completely exhausted, because he hadn't received quality sleep.  His sleep patterns are disrupted by the arousals, changing the amount of time spent in each of the five sleep stages (Stages 1-4 and REM sleep), leading to periods later in the day when he would spontaneously fall asleep due to sleep deprivation, despite having spent at least eight hours in bed the night before.  Therefore, I have since changed my thinking about consciousness, due to observing a person who seems to be asleep but is actually partially awake, and therefore the two states might not be mutually exclusive after all.

Music Changes Perception- David Cesnik Section 26

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  A recent research from the University of Groningen claimed that listening to happy music rendered the participant to perceive the world around them as a happier place, and listening to sad music as a more depressing world. This was tested by the participant listening to a song while identifying smiling and frowning faces. The results were not only that happy music persuaded the participant to see more happy faces (even when there were not as many smiling faces), the participant saw more sad faces when listening to the sad music too. Their conclusion from this experiment was that "that the brain builds up expectations not just on the basis of experience but on your mood as well."
  I firmly believe that this is a valid claim and the experiment is completely legitimate. The test offered a consistent result that was only changed by the independent variable, the kind of music playing. This matters to the real world because this now opens the doors to possible treatment for many kinds of attitude diseases or disorders. Listening to positive music could possible assist in the treatment of depression for example. This personally makes sense to me as well because I always feel better about my day when I walk to class listening to music that makes me happy, like Israel kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
  Some possible further research could be made as to what effect other kinds of music could have on a person, or how effective positive music can have on a sick or depressed person. If there is some medical merit to listening to happy music, there could be major changes to the treating of certain diseases or disorders.

BBC Sense of Self

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I found the BBC documentary fascinating to watch. In particular I enjoyed the section on consciousness. Here they discussed at what age people develop their sense of self. Watching the babies take the Mirror Self Recognition Test, which attempted to identify at what age people start to recognize themselves in the mirror, was particularly interesting because I do  not recall a time when i could not recognize myself in the mirror. This test showed that 22-month-old child could recognize themselves while the 18-month-old could not. So somewhere in the gap between 18 and 22 months is when people most likely become aware of themselves, or so this test would have us think. 

When the narrator showed that only animals most similar to humans could identify themselves the idea that this concept of self-recognition seemed to resonate with me. I do believe that we are unique as humans because we are able to shape our environments to our vision and I thought this was an interesting point to make.

If you look at how we are constantly increasing our carry capacity on this earth it shows that humans more than any other animal can change their surroundings. However I think I need a little more clarification as to how be able to recognize yourself leads to this phenomena.

The Secret You

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When do we become aware of ourselves?

     At first, he wonders that when do we start aware of ourselves. To illustrate this part, he met the professor who use "mirror self-recognition" test to test if the baby can recognize themselves in the mirror. They first let the babies look at themselves in the mirror and then ask their parents to put a mark on their face without telling them. After that, send them back to the mirror and see if they can find and catch the mark which is a signal of recognizing themselves. And the test proved that babies through 18 to 24 months begin to have self-awareness.

Where does consciousness reside?

     The surface of the brain is consisted of the cell bodies of the nerve cells. There might be a hundred billion nerve cells in a brain. We have a highly developed cortex. And this is probably the part that allows us to be self-aware.

Can we know whether someone still has conscious awareness?

     Marcus wondered that how would the scientists measure the consciousness. The professor said that the only way is to indicate that to them. So he used the measure called "Mental imagery", which is, "If you are imaging doing something, you will activate the same part of your brain as if you are actually doing them." The research tells us that even if our body can't response to certain stimuli, our brain can response to that, which means that we might still have consciousness.

What evidence is there that single neurons are involved in consciousness?

     The scientists are able to see what happens when the conscious patient is shown different images. They can now pick up some fancy techniques which allows them to amplify and visualize signals which are the way that the neurons speaking to each other. And strikingly, the cells deep inside the brain seem only to responds to very specific individuals. Later they also found out that usually it was some abstract ideas that neurons are responded to.

What does the difference in consciousness between waking and sleeping tell us about our sense of self?

     The professor tested the situation that stimulating certain parts of the brain while the person is awake, they found that once one area has been stimulated, different areas will be active as well. However, when the person is sleeping, stimulate to one area of the brain will only resulted in activation in that certain area. So consciousness might be resulted in interconnecting between different areas of the brain.

 Who is in charge of your decisions, your conscious self?

     Before people's mind being conscious and making a decision, the brain has already made the decision. It might also means that people's brain activity shapes the decision that the conscious would make and the conscious mind is the realization of brain activity. I am convinced about the conclusion. Because according to the experiment related to this result, the pattern of the brain activity did emerges that have told them the result before Marcus decided which side he is going to choose.

Illusions and our Interpretation of Them

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Illusions occur within our brain's, not our eyes. We perceive a complete pattern and fill in the missing spots. There are many different types of illusions that we've discussed in the Lilienfield text. Some of these included the moon illusion and the Muller-Lyer illusion

Moon Illusion
Moon Illusion above
There are many different explanations for why this occurs but none of them have been universally accepted. Some scientists believe it has to do with our atmosphere, but most people dismiss that theory because they say the atmosphere only effects the color. 
I believe illusions are important because they definitely have an interest factor and are generally amusing to most people. We definitely see them in every day life without even realizing that we are experiencing an illusion. We basically wrongly perceive something and our brain fills in the missing information to give us the illusion that we are seeing everything that we should be. I for of illusion is a blind sport which is when you reach a certain distance while looking in the mirror where your lens cannot focus properly. Our brains fill in the missing information using the environment around us to fill in the gaps. (192) There are many illusions that use the combination of shapes and colors to make you believe an object is moving when its not. Here is an example of one: Optical Illusion

Illusions are a very interesting aspect of psychology that many people ignore while perceiving one. They don't think about how your brain is actually working during this psychological process. Illusions are just another reason why they human brain is so advanced and adaptive. 

Post 2: "Success by Six" and the "Krayon Box Kids"

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On Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids, MN, just a block or two from the Foley Park & Ride are two adjacent competing child care centers. Many people pass by without noticing the wonderful paradox these two day cares create. 

"Success By Six" is an elite child care center composed of grey cement stone; its roof is flat and industrial; its logo is printed in crisp professional, mono-colored lettering; and its succinctly abbreviated as "SB6" in their online advertisements.  SB6 is run by United Way Capital Area, which has nobly collaborated with numerous other organizations to provide quality child care in attempt to address reported deficiencies in early childhood education and experience.  SB6 bases their claims on recent scientific research on "brain development, quality child care, and successful early intervention" (1).  SB6 insists that their "Theory of Change" is based on "strategies that have been proven to work" (1).

Each SB6 parent receives a developmental report card documenting their child's progress.  The children play in a sterile, monitored and structured environment.  They have facilitated access to a outdoor play area surrounded by a tall chain-link fence, entirely covered with grey small-pellet gravel.  Their play equipment is clean and metallic.  The children are also transported by a small fleet of white 15-passanger vans painted with the SB6 logo.

Right next door to the elite SB6 is the "Krayon Box Kids".  From the exterior it is smaller.  It's covered in yellow panel siding with a brown singled roof.  Its siding is broken up by two small windows facing the play area.  The logo is displayed on a tall sign facing oncoming traffic, and 'Krayon Box Kids" is scribbled with backward rainbow letters.  Their playground is littered with colorful second-hand toys; the play area is surrounded by a short fence; and the play set is wooden with a faint worn stain. Krayon Box Kids offers no website detailing their child development approaches, and the children are transported by a set of two short rusted yellow buses with magnetic tack-on logos.

The long-winded description of these two establishments is anecdotal evidence summarizing the debate of "nature vs nurture," or perhaps just the varying severity of "nurture".  An article from the New York Times presents the topic well, describing two of the main philosophies on parental involvement.  Motoko Rich's 4/17/2011article, "Nature? Nuture? Not So Fast ...", briefly overviews Amy Chua's and Bryan Caplan's psychologies behind "nurturing".

, a Yale law professor, is the author of ''Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."  In her book, she instructs parents to form a strict and organized environment for their children focusing on education and liberal exposures.  Rich said Chua's diction "sent legions of parents into a tizzy with her exacting standards for piano practice and prohibitions against sleepovers" (2).  Chua represents a parental psychology much similar to SB6.

Bryan Caplan, however, is an economist at George Mason University.  His recent book ''Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think'' explains that parenting is much less complicated and should require less extensive involvement than extremists think.  Rich insists that the best parenting method is one that is much more moderate -- a balance between extreme mediation and no involvement. 

The "Krayon Box Kids" seems to me to be a good middle ground.  Besides, if I were a kid, I think I'd want to go there anyway -- it seems more fun.

(1) "United Way's Success by 6",
(2) Rich, Motoko, "Nature? Nuture? Not So Fast ...", New York Times, 17-April-2011,

Does Your Taste in Music REALLY Affect Your SAT Scores?

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As I was surfing the Internet, I came across the image at left. When the caption stated that the image tried to correlate music preferences and composite SAT scores, my psychology training immediately kicked in. The conclusion the image seems to draw is that lowbrow popular music hurts a student's SAT score, and that classical music and intellectual alternative music raise a student's SAT score.


However, as we have all learned, correlation DOES NOT equal causation (Lilienfeld). This graphic doesn't take into account other factors that might affect SAT scores. For example, a student's socioeconomic background dictates their music preferences simply because their music preferences reflect the soundtrack of their life. Hip-hop is the soundtrack of the inner city in the same way that country is often the soundtrack of rural America, and the same way that classical music is often the soundtrack of the educated middle class (Alper-Leroux). These socioeconomic factors also affect how much background knowledge a student may be exposed to, which directly affects their SAT scores. Students who are not exposed to a wide vocabulary or practical mathematical applications at a young age are less likely to do well on standardized tests (Alper-Leroux).

The temptation to make conclusions based on a correlation is a great one, but empirical thinking helps us to resist assuming that correlation is causation.

Alper-Leroux, C. (2011, October 8). Interview by N. Alper-Leroux [Personal Interview].

Lilienfeld, Scott. Pyschology - From Inquiry to Understanding. Custom Edition for the University of Minnesota. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. Print.

The Sixth Sense

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Everyone can recall the iconic scene in the movie "Sixth Sense" where Haley Joel Osment whispers to Bruce Willis, "I see dead people." The camera then does a slow close-up of Bruce's face, and it's all dramatic. While this "sixth sense" is debatable, the other five: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, have been established since the time of Aristotle. However, they are far from the only senses we possess; they are just the most evident. In fact, neurologists today are unsure of just how many sense there are, or even exactly what is a sense. One point on which they do all agree, is that there are more than five. Among these, I find one, proprioception, to be the most interesting and most worth of further examine.  

The Lilienfeld text gives it but the briefest mention, and defines it simply as, "a perception of our body's location." Not at all exciting, but try this experiment. Close your eyes, and then touch the tip of your nose with your index finger. How did you do that? Your eyes were closed, so how did you know which finger was your index finger? Did you hear the air rushing past your hand as it moved toward your face? Or maybe, somehow smell your hand as it approached your nose? Unless you are in fact a very lame superhero, probably not. It was your sense of proprioception at work. But so what? This is all trivial. Consider then, that were it not for this sense you would have to constantly monitor your feet to make sure that they are, in fact, still on the ground. Or perhaps, you would need to watch your torso so you don't start walking off in the wrong direction. Evolutionarily, this would have been a huge deal. When confronted with some giant predator in the woods, imagine that instead of running as fast as humanly possible, you also had to make sure you weren't running toward said tiger/bear/dinosaur. You can see then, how those who had a more developed sense of proprioception had a better chance of survival.

Your five primary senses may allow you to interact with the world around you, but proprioception allows you to function as a coherent unit. The ability to interact with the deceased may be discovered one day, it certainly won't be the sixth sense.  

Hypnosis! Midgy Santana

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Hypnosis takes your mind off chronic pain

In chapter five we learned that hypnosis helps people alter their perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Most of the time a hypnotist will use an induction method, the classic "You are getting sleepy" kind of stuff.
I think hypnosis is pretty neat. At my high school's all night grad party we had a hypnotist come and hypnotize some of the kids in my class and it was extremely funny but I had no idea how it worked! In the chapter I really liked learning about the myths of hypnosis! I was really shocked to learn that hypnotized people aren't unaware of their surroundings, I thought they had no idea what was going on, but when my classmates were hypnotized they all knew what was around them and didn't get hurt and run into things.
The article I chose to read about was how people with chronic pain could use hypnosis to help get rid of their pain by influencing the cortical areas of their brain. Some people are afraid to try a new approach, but I think that if it can help them get rid of their pain, then it's worth a shot!254573_10150206777598542_520078541_7285687_5085261_n.jpgThis is a picture from my all night grad party. In it, the hypnotist just told my classmates that they were all extremely cold!

Assignment 2 I chose to watch the video entitled "The Secret You" for this weeks blog entry. I watch the part pertaining to the question, what does the difference in consciousness between waking and sleeping tell us about our sense of self ( 41:25 - 47:52 minutes). In this section of the video, scientist use a functional MRI to determine what is the difference in brain activity when awake and while sleeping. A functional MRI or fMRI is a technique that uses magnetic fields to visualize brain activity using the BOLD (blood oxygen level dependence) response. It does this by measuring the change in blood flow to the different part of your brain. This measurement is taken by electrodes to the man's head attached to the head. In this repeatable experiment, uses TMS transcranial magnetic stimulation. In this process, a series of mild shocks are sent to the portion of the brain. The affect of the shock is then measured. The location and sequence of activity is then recorded. This experiment shows that while conscious, the part that is stimulated lights up first. This is then followed by a "complex pattern" of other stimulated regions. Other parts of the brain are said to be communicating with other regions of the brain. The funny thing is that when you are asleep, one the part stimulated by the TMS lights up. The brain does not have communication of the cerebral cortex, and therefore does not have consciousness. The thought of your being you because the different parts of your brain are communicating seem like an obvious answer. This seems obvious to me, because different parts of the brain decipher what you see, hear, taste and touch. Without all these portions communicating what they know about what is going on--you cannot understand your surrounds. I was also wondering why there is not increase blood flow to your brain when you are dreaming.


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The irony of me writing this is that it took me about three hours to even begin this blog entry. In fact, many people suffer from procrastination in their every day lives. Procrastination is a form of what psychologists call "self sabotage". It is known as the gap between what we intend to do, and how we act upon our intentions. We plan to act, but when we finally set ourselves down to work, we find an excuse to cause unnecessary delay. The following video shows an example of what someone could do to avoid their homework or making payments. 

Procrastination link 

I can honestly say that I myself procrastinate all the time. In the first sentence of this post, I mentioned that it took me three hours to even start typing from when I opened the "Create->Entry." But since I posted that link above, I was subject to many distractions. These included checking my Facebook or Twitter, eating, playing Catch Phrase with the family, and now I find myself another three hours later continuing this post. This example is one out of three reasons why people procrastinate. They tell themselves "oh I'll just do it later" but later never shows up until the last minute.


Because procrastination is not only common in college students, but middle school and high school students as well, it is important to know ways to over come procrastination and get stuff done. One example would be to create a list of things that you need to have done for the week. Assign deadlines for each task. Tell someone what your goal is for each task to give yourself a motivation to complete it and not have to face a sense of failure. Lastly you could reward yourself. Go do something like checking Facebook or browsing YouTube after you finish your task. Following these easy steps is just one example on how to overcome procrastination.

Blog Post 2: Sleep

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It's easy to say that most of us don't get enough sleep which was most convenient when this chapter literally kept me up at night reading it. Perfect example. Well while reading this article what really caught my eye was the section on sleep walking especially since if you look at the news someone just died due to sleepwalking less than 4 hours ago. 

The concept of sleepwalking is simple, I mean the word explains it self. But the psychology behind it is fascinating. The brain allows people while they are sleepwalking to go through everyday actions such as driving or going for a stroll although it may be without the grace of a fully conscious person. I found this to be a significant concept in the text because I find it so interesting for the brain to allow movement at such a low level of consciousness. Although it doesn't happen to all of us, it's still important when the concept is correlated to expanding our knowledge of how the brain functions. The other thing that I found important of the concept of sleepwalking was the possibility of commiting harm not only to oneself but to others while sleepwalking. Although typically sleepwalking can be very harmless there is still the possibility of otherwise. And this is where a psychological concept such as this comes in with the law. The level of consciousness that a person has during sleepwalking is little to none so then the debate is raised about the level of responsibility that should be bestowed for their actions. The article cited below, discusses how a man plunged from a 4th floor of a hotel to his death and it's presumed that he was sleepwalking. As tragic as this is, many people jump from balconies to end their lives. If he was truly sleepwalking would you consider it then to be suicide or a simple accident?  And as the text discuss if someone murders another during sleepwalking would you agree to declare a man innocent due to the claim that he was sleepwalking when the crime was commited?

Assignment 2: Hypnosis: Not just Pseudoscience

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     There are still a lot of people that believe that hypnosis is nothing but pseudoscience and more or less a trick of the mind with a placebo like effect. The truth of the matter is that hypnosis has been shown and proven to work, it is just the understanding of what it is and how it effects people's behavior that causes people to doubt it. As it is formally defined in our text book hypnosis is a set of techniques that provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The definition clearly states that they are all suggestions for people not commands, and that is where the bulk of people get tripped up in the thinking that people can be forced to do things against their will which is far from the truth.                             
      Another thing that I believe plays a big role in people's misconception of hypnosis is their limited exposure to it. While a lot of people have no real exposure to hypnosis, the ones who have had some have been exposed to comedy or entertainment hypnosis such as the type shown in this video (URL included below in case the link doesn't work). While I will admit that my only real exposure to hypnosis is this type as well, I can attest to it's validity as I was one of the participants in the show. I confirm the power that the suggestions have on you, but I can also confirm what the book says that hypnosis cannot make "amazing things happen. While durring the show I wanted to listen to his suggestions if at any time he would have told me to do something I completely didn't want to do or went against my moral values I wouldn't have done it as I truly knew what was going on and had control of the situation. It is this experience that I had that made me personally realize the usefulness and limitations of hypnosis.
       I think the main thing that people have to keep in mind when talking about hypnosis is that while it is real, it has limitations and when used for help it is best when used with other forms of help as hypnosis alone will not work. The reason that people use hypnosis and why it does work especially when used with other treatment is by increasing our willingness to take a suggestion. For example if you wanted to quit smoking you already have the desire to try and by adding the hypnotic suggestions and possibly nicotine patches the odds that you actually will quit will most likely increase. From my personal experience the only real reason hypnosis works is because you are taken to such a relaxed state that the suggestions given to you seem like a good idea because all the stresses around have been artificially removed. 
      The power of hypnosis has definite limits, but the applications of it's power to influence is almost limitless. For people who still doubt the validity of hypnosis need to reexamine how they define hypnosis and what they think it can do. To be honest I would doubt how real it is too if i had not personally been hypnotized because it is so hard to understand the idea of having control but also wanting to take suggestion. But I would say that it is pretty universally accepted at this point that hypnotism is not pseudoscience but rather a way to slightly alter our ways of thinking.


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