My favorite Canadian lawyer has a weekly feature called "The Sidebar" in which he and American lawyer Robert Barnes spend an hour and a half to two hours interviewing very interesting people, most of whom I've never heard of. (No surprise there; I've never heard of most people.) I could enjoy these interviews very much, but that's a lot of time to give up so I usually resist. Recently, however, two caught my eye (ear?). It doesn't feel so bad if you can work on something else while listening.

The first interviewee was a large exception to my "never heard of him" rule: Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame. The second was unknown: Chase Hughes, behavior analyst, former military intelligence, interrogation expert, looks so friendly and innocent but is scary as all get out. I failed in my attempt to get any of his books from my usual free sources (library, Overdrive, Hoopla)—maybe they're considered too dangerous....

What links Adam and Hughes together is their interest in human behavior, persuasion, and hypnosis. They don't always agree; for example, while both are trained hypnotists, Adams insists that no one can be persuaded under hypnosis to do something against his own values, while Hughes says that's nonsense. For example, you can't directly make someone under hypnosis take off all his clothes in the middle of his workplace, but you can carefully lead him to believe he is about to step into the shower, and the logical consequences follow.

I don't have to like everything about these people and their ideas to find what they have to say both fascinating and frightening. I don't have to buy into their worldviews to acknowledge that what I believe to be free will choices are in fact far more vulnerable to influences we aren't even aware of than we can admit.

Perhaps more frightening than that is that both men agree that it is easy to make people remember as certainties things that did not happen. Implanting false memories doesn't even take a trained hypnotist, but can be done by a careless—or biased—questioner, especially if the subject is young, elderly, or otherwise particularly vulnerable.

Here are the interviews, for anyone who is interested and can find the time.

Scott Adams

Chase Hughes

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 31, 2021 at 6:22 am | Edit
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