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Hypnosis in the Forensic Arena

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: 2001 Pages: 113-122
Steven J. Lynn Ph.D.; Jeffrey Neuschatz Ph.D.; Rachael Fite M.S.; Irving Kirsch Ph.D.
Date Published
10 pages
This article reviews the literature on hypnosis and memory and then argues that there is no firm empirical rationale for using hypnosis or aggressive procedures in psychotherapy to excavate memories.
Following a review of various legal positions taken with respect to the use of hypnotically elicited testimony in the courtroom and a review of the available evidence on hypnosis in the forensic context, the overriding conclusion warranted by the literature is that hypnosis should not be used to assist recall in forensic situations; however, in very rare cases, the use of hypnosis may be justified after careful consideration of the risks and benefits of the use of hypnosis. Because hypnosis does not inevitably corrupt memory, a broad per se exclusion rule, which invariably bans a person from testifying about non-hypnotic recollections documented prior to hypnosis, may be unduly restrictive in exceptional cases. Further, it would be wrong to scapegoat hypnosis while ignoring or minimizing the potentially misleading and hazardous effects of a variety of non-hypnotic memory enhancement techniques (e.g., leading questions and reinforcement for recall). It is unfortunate that suggestive non-hypnotic interviews have not been as rigorously examined as hypnotic interviews with regard to the potential for memory contamination. It is clear that extreme caution must be exercised in administering hypnotic and non-hypnotic interviews to victims and witnesses to avoid any taint of leading or suggestive procedures. 26 references