Forensic Hypnosis: Investigative Tool or Junk Science?

     Advocates of forensic hypnosis claim that crime victims and witnesses, under an hypnotic state, can remember events they have forgotten, and sharpen memories that are still with them. Forensic hypnotists are often brought into cases…

     Advocates of forensic hypnosis claim that crime victims and witnesses, under an hypnotic state, can remember events they have forgotten, and sharpen memories that are still with them. Forensic hypnotists are often brought into cases to help, for example, a witness or victim recall a license plate number, or an odometer reading. Investigators also use the technique to retrieve more detailed descriptions of suspects.

     Supporters of forensic hypnosis point to cases where its use has solve crimes. Detractors (myself included) can point to instances where hypnotically induced information turned out to be inaccurate, and even harmful.

     In the 1970s I was tangentially involved in an arson-murder case where a forensically hypnotized witness/victim identified an innocent man as the fire setter. In one of my own cold case murder investigations, a witness I had someone forensically hypnotize, produced information that led me on a wild goose chase. In Pennsylvania and several other states, hypnotically induced testimony, because it is unreliable, is not admissible in court.

     A lot can go wrong when a victim or a witness is questioned while in an hypnotic state. The hypnotist can unwittingly suggest information to the subject that taints the results. Under hypnosis, the personal beliefs and prejudices of the interviewee can seep into remembered accounts and descriptions.

     Researchers have found that people under hypnosis are fully capable of lying, and the process can bring to the surface a subject's false beliefs. Because of these and other problems with this investigative technique, I am not a fan of forensic hypnosis, particularly when practiced by psychologists who make their livings putting clients under to help them stop smoking, lose weight, stop taking drugs, or get off booze. In my opinion, composite sketches based on the memories of hypnotized eyewitnesses are, at best, useless. In the practice of criminal investigation, forensic hypnotists should be placed in the same category as fortune tellers, astrologists, and psychic detectives.  

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/