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7 plus or minus 2

This induction used to be online here, but the website is no longer online. Some minor adjustments have been made.

Who is this for?

This is a form of overload induction that is very powerful for intellectual or analytical people, but can be uncomfortable for others.

Please take the time to read it in full before trying it.

Introduction

Short-term memory (STM) is limited in the number of items it can hold. The small capacity of STM was pointed out by George Miller in a famous paper called "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information". Miller noticed that people could recall only about seven items in tasks that required them to remember unfamiliar material. The common thread in these tasks, Miller argued, was that they required the use of STM.

When short-term memory is filled to capacity, the insertion of new information often displaces some of the information currently stored in STM. For example, if we are memorizing a ten-item list of basic chemical elements, the eighth, ninth, and tenth items on the list will begin to "bump out" earlier items. Similarly, if we are reciting the phone number of a pizza parlor we're about to call when someone asks, "How much is this pizza going to cost?" our retrieval of the cost information into STM may knock part of the phone number from our STM.

We can increase the capacity of short-term memory by combining stimuli into larger, possibly higher-order, units called chunks. A chunk is a group of familiar stimuli stored as a single unit. The effect of chunking can be demonstrated by asking someone to recall a sequence of 12 letters grouped in the following way:

FB – ITW – AC – IAIB – M

As you read the letters aloud, pause at the hyphens. Our subject will probably attempt to remember each letter separately because there are no obvious groups or chunks. But a string of 12 letters is too long for STM, so errors are likely. Now we may present the same string of letters to another person, placing the pauses in the following locations:

FBI – TWA – CIA – IBM

The letters now form four familiar chunks that should occupy only four slots in short-term memory, resulting in successful recall. The hypnotist can use this knowledge by creating an overload i.e. by offering a person more pieces of information than the person can process consciously, or by engaging a person in more tasks than the person can process consciously. As this state creates a tension and/or confusion, the person is open to follow suggestions offering a way out of the situation. Thus, the hypnotist can lead a person easily into a trance.

One way of creating an overload is by engaging the person in activities that utilize all representational systems at once while at the same time using each system in an activity unrelated to the others.

Another way of creating an overload is by having two people communicate different messages into each ear of the person.

Seven plus or minus two

by Terence Watts

Use this induction with analytical or intellectually orientated clients. It contains elements of confusion and since it is almost impossible to resist, it works particularly well with those who tend to find 'normal' relaxation inductions uncomfortable. Use a 'standard' preparation to begin.

All right, just allow yourself to be as lazy as you want to be... Listening quietly to the sound of my voice... And while you're listening quietly to the sound of my voice concentrating for a few moments on your breathing... Breathing slowly and steadily, just as though you were sound asleep, or pretending to be sound asleep... And imagining, perhaps, just how comfortable you might look while you're relaxing there in the chair... Using the power of your mind to see yourself in your mind's eye... And then using the power of your mind to do whatever has to happen to make you look even more relaxed...

And still thinking about your breathing, making quite sure that each breath in lasts the same length of time as the last breath in... And each breath outwards lasts the same length of time as the last breath out... Even though each breath in will probably be slightly shorter than each breath out...

And while you're thinking about your breathing, noticing, perhaps, the weight of your head against the back of the chair... And still listening quietly to the sound of my voice... And while you're listening quietly to the sound of my voice, it maybe that you'll become aware that you've forgotten to think about your breathing... But that's all right, you can just simply start thinking about your breathing again while you're listening quietly to the sound of my voice and what I'm saying to you here...

And in psychology, there's a rule called... Seven plus or minus two...

And that means that most people can think of seven things all at once... Plus or minus two... So you should be able to think of at least five things all at the same time... The sound of my voice... The steadiness of your breathing...

The weight of your head against the back of the chair... And how you might look from the outside... And that's four things... So you can think of those four things while you're listening to the sound of the music I'm playing in the background... So that's five things, now... And I wonder if you can think about those five things and then at the same time notice the way your feet feel on the footrest of the chair...

And perhaps how your arms feel... And that's seven things now... The sound of my voice... The weight of your head against the back of the chair... The music playing in the background... They way you look while you're relaxing... And your breathing... And your arms... And your feet on the footrest... And I wonder if you can now add an eighth thing into all of that... I wonder if your mind is powerful enough to think of seven plus one things... Adding in, perhaps, an awareness of the temperature of the room...

And then just testing to see whether you can add yet another input to your senses... So that you're thinking of NINE things all at once... That's seven plus two... Thinking about all those eight inputs to your senses and then maybe adding an awareness of the way your eyes feel while you're thinking about all those other things...

The weight of your head... Your breathing... The music in the background... How you look from the outside... The temperature of the room...
your feet on the footrest... Your arms... The sound of my voice... And how your eyes feel... The weight of your head... Your breathing... The music in the background... How you look from the outside... The temperature of the room... Your feet on the footrest... Your arms... The sound of my voice... And how your eyes feel... And of course, when anybody thinks of all these things, what they are really doing is scanning round them one after the other... Very quickly... So quickly, it feels as if you're thinking of them all at once...

And in the world of computers, that would be called timesharing... Sharing your available resources between the different tasks you are attempting to perform all at once... And that's why some people can think of only five things... Because it's the limit of their memory... While others can actually think of nine things... And I wonder how well your memory is working as you struggle to remember those nine things... The weight of your head... Your breathing... The music in the background... How you look from the outside... The temperature of the room... Your feet on the footrest... Your arms... The sound of my voice... And how your eyes feel... And now you can think how good it will feel... When you simply allow yourself to think of only the most important thing of all...

Concentrating all your energies onto that one most important thing of all... Which is going to be so easy to think of, now that you are going to allow yourself to think of only one thing instead of nine... And that one thing is how good it feels to think of only one thing... Thinking how relaxed you can be now... That you're only thinking of how relaxed you might like to be... Relaxing in your mind... And in your body... No need to think anything at all, really... No need to do anything... Nobody wanting anything and nobody expecting anything... And absolutely nothing whatsoever for you to do except to...

Relax.

From here, you can continue into deepeners, suggestions or otherwise.

Final comments

Looks like a good one Daryl.

I wonder if anyone has thought along the line of interspersed marked wording for hand levitation with such a script. I think it might be a nice touch. That way the analytical type of thinker one might use such a script on would be able to provide a demonstration as to when they really are giving way to their unconscious. Just a thought for something to play with. The one thing a hypnotist has to keep in mind with such a script is that he/she has to pay attention to the listener, and look for signs of trance, or at least the lack of signs. If your subject goes down quickly any addition of confusion will tend to lighten the trance because your subject is yearning for something to grasp, yet if the person has decided to follow and isn't quite there yet once you get close to the end, some further confusion will be required, so the hypnotist will have to be adaptable with his work. Have you played with this induction yourself?

> Have you played with this induction yourself?

Yes Frank, I have improvised my way through it and it works like a charm. Important to have a "cheat sheet" list of 9 things you want them to remember otherwise you can lose track yourself because, as you point out, you are monitoring many things at the same time. Their conscious mind just gives up in the end and they find thinking of "one" thing such a relief, they just slide into a deep trance. However you have to be selective about who you use it on as it can be a stressful experience for some clients and can be counter productive.