Topics like brainwashing and hypnotism aren’t easy to fathom. To most people, these concepts are alien, bordering on magical. This is why Dr Jeff Kieliszewskian had a tough time selecting genuine subjects for a special episode of the ongoing Discovery Channel series, Curiosity. He, with a team of neuroscientists and hypnotist Tom Silver, was assigned the task to oversee an experiment that understands how a regular person is brainwashed into becoming an assassin.
“We started with 187 subjects. Then we conducted mass inductions and finally selected 14 people. They were then put through a series of experiments under hypnosis and made to do things outside their character. The ultimate task was to get them to shoot a person,” he says, adding, “I won’t give away whether they did it. But some results were shocking.” According to the psychologist, who works with super-maximum security prisons, brainwashing someone into committing crimes, like murder, is not an easy task.
“It can take up to a few days to hypnotise people and such experiments in controlled atmospheres work better. For instance, it took us days to settle on the 14 subjects, as they were the most susceptible ones,” says the doctor. Ask him what makes one person easier to brainwash than others and he explains, “Research says people with malleable beliefs are most susceptible to brainwashing. After all, hypnosis is a state of advanced realisation, where you are ready to accept suggestions.”
As part of the Curiosity series, the episode called Brainwashed will be aired on December 26 at 4 pm on Discovery Channel.