Location: Essex, GB
Derren Brown is an entertainer and of course, he wants people to watch his shows, so what better than to pick such a subject, and exploit perhaps one of the single biggest fears that people have around hypnosis - that they might be forced to do something against their will.
Now, I know people who would cheerfully shoot Stephen Fry if someone were foolish enough to give them a loaded gun.... and they thought that they could get away with it. No hypnotic trance necessary. So Im not sure that he proved his case. My guess is that Sirhan Sirhan is unlikely to be released from prison anytime soon and Im pretty sure that Derren doesnt care one way or the other.
The renowned Psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, Dr Milton Erickson, ran a clinical trial to establish whether or not someone could be made to do something against their will, using post hypnotic suggestion. Erickson and other researchers in hypnosis conducted experiments, using highly suggestible volounteers, largely medical students, to do unethical or dangerous things, like stealing mail, or putting their hand in a glass tank with a poisonous snake and those individuals failed to do them.
They demonstrated what Jack Hilgard called the hidden observer" effect - implying that there is a part of the mind which stays aware and keeps the subject safe from such things.
So, although Derrens approach to stage hypnosis is marginally more sophisticated than suggesting that someone barks like a dog, I wonder, by exagerating this fear, how much further he removes Mr Average from the opportunity to change his life for the better, potentially detering the use of this powerful tool of hypnosis as a healing therapy.