Typically when we think about hypnosis, we picture a hypnotist waiving a pocket watch back and forth telling us we are getting sleepy and somehow convincing people that they are getting sleepy.
This image is depicted in the media and the wonders that occur within the mind during hypnotism is greater than the swinging pocket watch and the hypnotist.
Our conscious mind allows us to interpret and make decisions with regard to the world around us. The subconscious mind on the other hand deals with daily functions, such as breathing, that we do not have to think about.
Hypnosis allows hypnotists to "access" the subconscious part of the mind. The reason that hypnotists tell their audience that they are getting sleepy is to instill a sense of relaxation to allow the conscious mind to shut down and the subconscious mind to begin to take over.
When the subconscious mind takes over our bodily functions, emotions, and memories are now accessible by the hypnotist. While a good portion of the reasoning behind hypnosis is due logical reasoning, there have been EEG tests that have shown an decrease in brain activity within the left hemisphere and increase in the right.
While hypnosis is largely used for amusement purposes, it can also be used to heal patients. Bad habits can be controlled through hypnosis treatment. While some of these techniques are successful, the idea of accessing memories does not prove to be valid. Memories that are recalled through hypnosis can be true memories while others can be false that have been created the subconscious.
The following video attempts to place viewers under hypnosis.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUFYJ2NppfgIt does this by relaxing the viewer and bringing their attention to the video and their breathing so that he can access the subconscious and tell the viewer what to think and feel. He also alludes to accessing memories.
The question that I pose is how do we tell whether hypnosis actually cures bad habits, such as smoking, or if this can be explained by the placebo effect? Does the fact that patients now associate smoking with bad taste in their mouth ("induced by hypnosis") result directly from the hypnotist accessing the subconscious mind or does the fact that the patient is now aware that he/she should feel this way affect their overall outlook on cigarettes? What tests could be done to tell?