The Battle for Your Mind by Dick Sutphen

Persuasion and Brainwashing Techniques Being Used On The Public Today

To measure attention spans, psychophysiologist Thomas Mulholland of the Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, attached young viewers to an EEG machine that was wired to shut the TV set off whenever the children's brains produced a majority of alpha waves. Although the children were told to concentrate, only a few could keep the set on for more than 30 seconds!

Most viewers are already hypnotized. To deepen the trance is easy. One simple way is to place a blank, black frame every 32 frames in the film that is being projected. This creates a 45-beat-per-minute pulsation perceived only by the subconscious mind--the ideal pace to generate deep hypnosis.

The commercials or suggestions presented following this alpha-inducing broadcast are much more likely to be accepted by the viewer. The high percentage of the viewing audience that has somnambulistic-depth ability could very well accept the suggestions as commands--as long as those commands did not ask the viewer to do something contrary to his morals, religion, or self-preservation.

When you start to combine subliminal messages behind the music, subliminal visuals projected on the screen, hypnotically produced visual effects, sustained musical beats at a trance-inducing pace . . . you have extremely effective brainwashing. Every hour that you spend watching the TV set you become more conditioned.

Storytelling as a pedagogical tool in higher education.
By Abrahamson, Craig Eilert

Magazine: EDUCATION, SPRING/1998



This paper addresses the educational theoretic values of storytelling within higher education. Storytelling is found in all institutions within society, for it appears to greatly reduce depersonalization. Lively narrative format is being used increasingly in higher education, and it appears to be helping students think critically and understand factual content in a personalized fashion. Its use assists in defining technical aspects of texts by providing concise, concrete examples of the written material studied. Storytelling can clearly be viewed as the foundation of the teaching profession....

In his article entitled "Memory, Imagination, and Learning: Connected by the Story", Kieran Egan (1989) points to the power of storytelling as the link to more meaningful learning, placing it within the historical context of oral cultures who couldn't write, but who could remember and repeat their stories. Egan writes: "If one could code the knowledge to be passed on and embed it in a story form, then it could be made more faithfully memorable than by any other means (p. 456). In addition, Lucien Levi-Bruhl (1985) believes that memory in oral cultures is extremely accurate and emotional, thus the permeation of events with emotion makes them more memorable. The technique developed in oral cultures for orienting emotions with events was the story. There is little doubt that the Story is a technical tool that has provided a measure of order and stability to human societies for countless millennia. It appears through a review of the literature that the story is one of the most important inventions of humankind (Egan, 1989).

Cognitive Processing in Storytelling

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "No generalization is worth a damn, including this one." Nothing could be more to the point when it comes to storytelling than the impact of specificity based on experience and the relating of those experiences to others, in the form of storytelling. Understanding and explaining the world are critical aspects of intelligence which are deeply rooted in the comprehension of past events as they contribute to, and make understandable, the comprehension of new events. This is basically the essence of learning from the beginning of time to the present, whether in a formal or informal setting.

 The best methodology for education is not simply the use of didactic instruction, for it needs to be an awakening and moving experience in order for the content to have meaning for the learner. By using storytelling as an educational tool, students and instructors alike are inspired and satisfied in a vast variety of ways (Tigner, 1993). It is important to remember that students are multiform beings, therefore, inspiration, encouragement, satisfaction, and fascination must be integrated with information in order to provide an education that has meaning to the learner and will have true, lasting effects on that person's life and the society in which he or she interacts. What a person usually remembers the longest is information that has an emotional impact.

Implementation of Hypnotic Trance in Storytelling

While thinking is certainly a complex activity, thinking depends very much on storytelling and story understanding. People remember what happens to them, and they tell other people what they remember. It is this sharing that can enhance an understanding of what occurred, both to the teller, as well as to the listener. Often, when we are either telling or listening to a story, our habitual mental sets, common everyday frames of reference, and belief systems are more or less interrupted and suspended for a moment or two. Milton H. Erickson defined hypnotic trance as the evocation and utilization of unconscious learning (Erickson & E. Rossi, 1979). He believed that people are most open to learning in this state due to the fact that one's usual frames of reference and beliefs are temporarily altered so one can be receptive to concepts and information that may be somewhat different from what already has been assimilated into his or her cognitive and emotional frames of reference.

Milton H. Erickson, "the great genius" of storytelling and trance induction, used anecdote as metaphor to affect what often seemed to be miraculous learning on the part of students. His innovative use of storytelling has opened up limitless possibilities for learning through storytelling in the educational setting. The anecdotes that Erickson told were gathered throughout his life experience. The dynamics of trance induction and utilization are a very personal experience wherein the storyteller helps the students find their own individual paths to understanding and assimilating the content that is being taught.

It needs to be emphasized that there are many means for facilitating, guiding, or teaching how one might be led to experience the state of receptivity that is called hypnotic trance. However, there is no universal method for affecting the same uniform trance state through the utilization of storytelling in everyone. The art of the educator, when using storytelling for this purpose, lies in helping students reach an understanding through sharing stories that pertain directly to course content. If applied properly it will help them abandon some of the limitations of their common everyday world views so that they can achieve a state of receptivity to the educational process that they are experiencing.

For didactic purposes, the following five-stage paradigm of the dynamics of trance induction and suggestion through storytelling that Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi (1976) created will be discussed. While this paradigm is a convenient framework for understanding the implementation of hypnotic trance in storytelling within the educational setting, it must be understood that the individual manifestations of the process will be just as unique and various as are the natures of the students experiencing them.

The five stages of conversational trance induction, according to this model, are: fixation of attention, depotentiating habitual frameworks and belief systems, unconscious search, unconscious process, and hypnotic response (Erickson & E. Rossi, 1976).

Storytelling as a pedagogical tool in higher education.
By Abrahamson, Craig Eilert

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1. Fuxiation of Attention
: Through the years, this has been the classical approach for initiating therapeutic trance or hypnosis. It is the process of encouraging students to focus on sensations (such as listening to a story of fascination) or internal imagery that leads attention inward (such as listening to a story and forgetting for the moment that one is having an exam in one's next class). The most effective means of focusing and fixing attention in conversational trance induction is to recognize and acknowledge the student's current experience. When the instructor correctly labels the student's ongoing here-and now experience, the student is usually immediately grateful and open to whatever else the instructor has to say. Acknowledging the student's current reality thus opens a "yes set" for whatever content the instructor may wish to introduce. This is the basis of the utilization approach to trance induction, wherein instructors gain their students' attention by focusing on their students' current behavior and experiences (Erickson, 1958 & 1959).

2. Depotentiating Habitual Frameworks and Belief Systems: As stated in the fixation of attention stage, if the stage is successful, consciousness has been distracted. In this second stage, as the student is consciously pulled into the story that the instructor is sharing, latent patterns of association and sensory-perceptional experience have an opportunity to assert themselves in a manner that can initiate the altered state of consciousness that has been described as trance or hypnosis. There are many means of depotentiating frames of reference. Any experience of shock or surprise momentarily will fixate attention and interrupt the previous pattern of association. Any experience of the unrealistic, the unusual, or the fantastic provides an opportunity for altered modes of apprehension. Aspects in a story that create confusion, doubt, dissociation, and disequilibrium are all means of depotentiating students' learned limitations so that they may become open and available for new means of experiencing and learning, which are the essence of conversational (therapeutic) trance (Erickson, E. Rossi & S. Rossi, 1976). In everyday life one is continually confronted with difficult and new situations that mildly shock and interrupt one's usual way of thinking. At times these problem situations will initiate a creative moment of reflection that may provide an opportunity for something new to emerge. If the story has some of these components, the students' interpretations can alter their frames of reference and create an opportunity for new insight and obtainment of new knowledge.

3. Unconscious Search: In the everyday lives of individuals there are constant circumstances by which they are exposed to new stimuli that require them to fix attention and depotentiate habitual associations. When these processes occur, they initiate an unconscious search for a new solution to a problem or seek out a new altering experience. In other words, when individuals are faced with a new experience, they often go into their memory banks in an attempt to locate a memory of some detail in order to resolve the particular experience. Like metaphor and analogy, these are all means of momentarily arresting attention and requesting a search, which is essentially a search on an unconscious level, in order to come up with a new association or frame of reference (Jaynes, 1976). With the employment of storytelling as a trance-inducement mechanism in the manner in which this has been discussed, the opportunity is afforded for the student to creatively reorganize information and concepts to allow for the assimilation of new knowledge and concepts which can enhance the learning experience (Erickson, E. Rossi & S. Rossi, 1976).

4. Unconscious Process: In utilizing a trance state through the storytelling methodology, the instructor initiates the unconscious process with indirect forms of suggestion (Erickson & E. Rossi, 1976; Erickson, E. Rossi & S. Rossi, 1976). In essence, an indirect suggestion within the framework of storytelling initiates an unconscious search and facilitates unconscious processes within students, and they often find themselves open to ideas and concepts that in the past appeared closed (Ghiselin, 1952). The indirect forms of suggestion are facilitators of mental associations and unconscious processes. The indirect forms of suggestion through the use of storytelling within the classroom help students bypass their learned limitations so they are able to accomplish a lot more than they are usually able to accomplish (Erickson & E. Rossi, 1976).

5. The Hypnotic Response: The hypnotic response is the natural outcome of the unconscious search and processes initiated by the instructor when employing the storytelling technique within the classroom context. Because it is mediated primarily by unconscious processes within the student, the hypnotic response appears to occur automatically or autonomously, much in the same fashion as when a person is sitting in his or her car at a red stop light and isn't aware when the light turns green until the person in the car behind him or her blows the horn. This response appears to take place in a manner that may seem alien or dissociated from the person's usual mode of responding in a voluntary manner. That sense of surprise can generally be taken as an indication of the genuinely autonomous nature of the response. Many people look at the hypnotic trance as an occurrence that only happens in the company of an hypnotherapist, and when it does happen, the individual loses all control while under the control of the therapist. However, most individuals typically experience a mild sense of pleasant surprise when they find themselves responding in this automatic and involuntary manner. Contrary to public misconceptions, the hypnotized person remains the same person, only his or her perceptions for the moment are altered by the trance state.

In summary, the utilization of trance within the storytelling methodology is a learning process for the student and represents a procedure of legitimate education. Effective results in the utilization of the trance state or hypnotic response within the storytelling process derive primarily from the student's activities. Through storytelling that relates directly to the material being covered, the instructor merely stimulates the student, guides the student, and exercises academic judgment in determining the amount of work to be done to achieve the desired results. How to guide and assess constitute the instructor's primary goals, while the student's task is learning, through his or her own efforts, to understand the content in a new and effective way. Such an educational process is defined in terms of the student's life experiences, his or her understandings, memories, attitudes, and ideas, the prescribed course content, and the institution's goals and objectives. It cannot be solely defined in terms of the instructor's ideas and opinions.

History of Storytelling in Higher Education

The positive impact of storytelling is the ability to build connections with personal experience, thus enhancing the facilitation of inquiry into the educational content of the course itself. Critical reflection of storytelling begins with the stories relating directly to course content, thus permitting a critique and inner-personal dialogue within the student's own values and life experiences (Cooper, 1994). In addition, critical stories have theoretically valued the students' histories and have been centered on the students' lives. It is imperative that the stories being utilized by the instructor relate to a definite degree to the students' own life experiences, thus forming a sense of commonality between instructor and students. Teaching, learning, and assessment are brought into play in such a way as to allow for professional voice, creativity, inquiry, and critical evaluation of the course content through these commonality of experiences. In addition, storytelling provides the means of using student experience to truly incorporate course content into the student's knowledge base and value system (Cooper, 1994).

Instructors of higher education often have feelings of ambivalence about incorporating storytelling into their lectures and teaching methods because they feel it is taking away from the actual delivery of factual course content. At the same time, there are a growing number of educators in higher education who feel the telling of stories is a powerful, perhaps indispensable, tool in teaching (Wills, 1992).


Storytelling as a pedagogical tool in higher education.
By Abrahamson, Craig Eilert

It is apparent that the true communities are "communities of memory" and that for social scientists wanting to understand society, narrative (storytelling) is a forceful and powerful way of knowing (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler & Tipton, 1985). The significant interest in storytelling in society is far-reaching and pervasive. It is to be found in religions, in families, and in business, and the result of storytelling is usually found to be a significant factor in bringing people together and creating a sense of a learned alliance. Substance abusers use storytelling to tell the story of themselves before their recovery, then another after their recovery (Denzin, 1987). The focus on this sort of narrative is encouraged by Alcoholics Anonymous and other substance abuse organizations (Denzin, 1986). The result is that new behaviors are learned through storytelling and a sense of togetherness prevails that makes recovery and the sense of community and belonging stronger and more functional. Storytelling over the ages has provided common, shared values of sharing, humility, and virtue. Many of these values are missing in the lives of today's students, particularly those who are classified as behavior-disordered. This technique has particular appeal to groups with special learning needs (Zabel, 1991).

The revival of interest in narrative and storytelling can be seen in many areas within higher education, including history, philosophy, literary theory, and the social sciences, both theoretical and applied. The turn toward storytelling in society is partially the result of the realization of the shortcomings of explanations based on models from the natural sciences. It is also partially due to an attempt to recover from the depersonalization stemming from the impact of mass entertainment and mass consumption. This trend appears to be also true in the area of teaching in public education where both teachers and policy makers have recently started to view storytelling as a means of creating a sense of shared community within the classroom (Wills, 1992). As an example, the new California History-Social Science Framework has emphasized the importance of presenting historical content in lively narrative form (Wills, 1992).

People use storytelling on a day-to-day basis. In fact, if educators stopped being embarrassed about their storytelling, realizing that when instructors relate stories to their students they are appealing to them as "homo narrans", storytelling and storylistening creatures, and tapping quests for meaning and values in extremely powerful ways, it would be possible for educators to re-think and restructure their actions. Storytelling should be used to challenge instructors to use the power of the story in a focused, strategic manner. By engaging in storytelling in this manner, instructors can encourage students to think critically, understand facts, distinguish valid and invalid generalizations, and focus on principles and actual consequences, both morally and from an existentialist standpoint (Wills, 1992).

The advantage of storytelling for better learning in the classroom is one of the primary reasons for its implementation. "Storytelling also encourages individuals to think of the curriculum as a collection of the great stories of their cultures. If one begins to think in these terms instead of seeing the curriculum as a huge mass of material to be conveyed to students, one can begin to think of instructors in society as connected with an ancient and honored role. Instructors are the tellers of culture's tales. In complex cultures, that task is more complex than in typical oral cultures, thus it should be accorded even higher status" (Egan, p. 459). Far too often course content is delivered to the student in such a way that its meaning has little context outside of its own content, which creates isolated learning that rarely is connected together for the student through the curriculum. It perhaps is comparable to purchasing an automobile one part at a time and then taking the collected parts home to be put together by the owner for the purpose of creating a functioning automobile. The typical student in today's higher education does not appear to have the ability to assemble the curriculum into a meaningful and functioning unit of knowledge and expertise, much in the same fashion that the typical automobile owner doesn't have the ability to assemble his or her own automobile into a functioning unit.

The ability to decipher meaning from a mountain of facts can be attributed to the facilitation offered by storytelling. Without stories as organizing frameworks within higher education, the student is swamped by the volume of the experience (Postman, 1989). A story gives one direction by providing a kind of theory about how the world works in relationship to what is being taught or examined for the moment. Without a tale, the individual has no idea of what to do with the information (Postman, 1989). The use of the storyline method in instruction is a valuable way of integrating the curriculum, according to Ian M. Barr and Margit E. McGuire (1993). Storyline was developed in Scotland over the last twenty years and incorporates the enthusiasm students have for stories. Outcome studies have shown that this program has provided a context for active learning and remarkable ownership of that learning by students (Barr and McGuire, 1993). Storytelling has had a long-term following in Europe, and now, it is increasingly being pursued by higher education in the United States.

It appears through reviewing the literature that storytelling could almost exclusively be applicable to the social sciences. Upon closer examination, however, even disciplines such as mathematics can be enhanced through the power of stories. Constructing and sharing stories within the educational arena is one of the most fundamental means of making meaning and, as such, it is an activity that pervades all aspects of learning (Wells, 1986). Wells states that "through the exchange of stories, therefore, teachers and students can share their understandings of a topic and bring their mental models of the world into closer alignment. In this sense, stories and storying are relevant in all areas of the curriculum" (p. 194). Through the act of storytelling, the reader generates his or her own understanding through negotiating text and context.


Students learn in a variety of ways, and studies have shown that learning can be enhanced when the instructor and student come together on a cognitive and emotional level, thus creating mutual interaction and understanding (Peck, 1989). History has demonstrated that, through the use of storytelling, a sense of community develops among those involved with the story (Sawyer, 1942).

Learning can be enhanced by the evocation and utilization of unconscious learning (Erickson & E. Rossi, 1976). Through storytelling, the instructor can help students give up some of the limitations of their viewpoints so they can achieve a state of receptivity to the application of course content to which they are being exposed. This process typically takes place through the technique known as conversational hypnotic trance, where a portion of the learning process is unconscious (the student is consciously aware that learning is taking place). The hypnotic response is the natural outcome of the unconscious search for the meaning of content which will alter modes of apprehension (Erickson, E. Rossi & S. Rossi, 1976).

In order for storytelling to have the desired effect of increasing the student's ability to learn and assimilate new information, it is important that the instructor have knowledge and understanding of the student's past and current experiences. This can be accomplished through several different methods, one being that the instructor have each student write and turn in a detailed sketch of his or her life experiences at the beginning of the term as these experiences relate to the curriculum and the specific course content. Storytelling is most effective when the story relates directly to the student's life experiences, understandings, ideas, and attitudes (Cooper, 1994).

All aspects of learning create experiences, whether the content be subjective or empirical in nature. Thus, the use of storytelling has the potential to be effective in all areas of higher education. Storytelling develops a context for active learning and remarkable ownership of the learning, both in terms of process and content. The current interest in storytelling and narrative can be seen in many areas within higher education, in both theoretical and applied disciplines (Wills, 1992). Storytelling can clearly be viewed as the foundation of the teaching profession.

National Institute for Science Education University of Wisconsin-Madison National Center for Improving Science Education (202)-467-0652

The National Science Foundation launched the NISE in 1995, locating it at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the Washington-based National Center for Improving Science Education as its chief partner. The Institute is conducting research and development in science, mathematics, engineering and technology education across grades K-16. This five-year initiative is supported by NSF and led by Andrew Porter, Director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and Terrence Millar, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Baker, Barbara Lehfeldt. (1979). Storytelling: Past and present. Denton, Texas.

Barr, Ian M., & McGuire, Margit E. (1993, January-February). Social studies and effective stories. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 5, 6-7, 11.