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Effects of Beliefs and Information About Hypnosis on the Legal Defence of Automatism Through Hypnosis

NCJ Number
Psychology Crime & Law Volume: 2 Issue: 4 Dated: (1996) Pages: 259-268
K Roberts; G F Wagstaff
Date Published
10 pages
This study assessed the impact of public conceptions about the nature and coercive powers of hypnosis and information regarding different approaches to hypnosis on the plea of automatism through hypnosis in a criminal trial.
Study participants included 77 British volunteers from varied occupations and backgrounds who were assigned to three groups. Two groups were presented with criminal cases in which automatism through hypnosis and duress were implicated. One of these groups received information about different approaches to hypnosis. The third group received the same cases but with duress alone. Results showed that when automatism through hypnosis and duress were implicated, the defendant offering the plea was judged less responsible. The defendant was not judged less guilty, however, when duress alone was the defense. In addition, subjects presented with the plea of automatism tended to be more skeptical about the idea than those not presented with this plea. The provision of information on different approaches to hypnosis was largely ineffective in altering beliefs and judgments, although judgments of guilt and responsibility were strongly influenced by beliefs about automatism through hypnosis. 48 references, 2 notes, and 1 table