An NPRI Radio Commentary

Junk Testimony

evada’s Assembly recently approved—by a 40 to one margin—a bill which legalizes the use of hypnosis as legitimate testimony in Nevada courts. While statements made under hypnosis already are admitted by courts in our state, this bill sets the authority to use such testimony in statute. It should come as little surprise that a forensic hypnotist is the leader of this lobbying effort. Paul Kincade, who has been involved in hypnosis for twenty years, was delighted to see his bill sail through the Legislature with virtually no opposition.

But hypnosis is a notoriously-weak investigative tool, as are similar techniques, such as dream interpretation and body massages. These procedures are used to obtain so-called recovered memories of horrible events, such as witnessing a murder or being sexually abused. But the scientific community has grave doubts about the credibility of recovered memories. Let’s listen to what the American Medical Association has to say about the issue: "The AMA considers recovered memories … to be of uncertain authenticity, which should be subject to external verification. The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication." Hypnosis makes patients highly receptive to suggestions, and many subjects under hypnosis believe any image that comes into their minds really happened.

Stanford psychologist David Spiegel perhaps said it best: "under hypnosis, you can create memories rather than retrieve them." Let’s hope members of Nevada’s Senate decide to get all the facts before rubber-stamping hypnosis testimony in our courts. u


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