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PSYCHOPATHOLOGICAL RESEARCHES
STUDIES IN MENTAL DISSOCIATION

Boris Sidis, M. A., Ph.D., M.D.
with
William A. White, M.D., George M. Parker, M.D.

1908
Boston: Richard G. Badger

 

CHAPTER XI

SUGGESTIBILITY IN THE WAKING STATE

        EXPERIMENTS were then made on the patient to test her suggestibility in the waking state.

        For the purposes of these experiments a pack of ordinary playing cards was used, and it was endeavored to discover whether, when the patient was requested to make a voluntary choice of one of them, she could be so influenced by indirect suggestion as to choose a card previously determined on by the experimenter.

        The artifices used for making the suggestion were numerous; for instance, the cards were partially separated and held face up, some one of them, however, being so placed that it could be more readily seen, then the entire pack was passed rapidly before the patient's eyes, and she was asked to make a choice. She invariably chose this most prominent card. If, again, the card to be chosen was placed so as to be surrounded by others of a different color―for instance, a red card with two black ones on either side,―and she was again asked to choose, the red card would be chosen. Again, if the experimenter took a few cards, face up, in his left hand, and then with the right hand picked them up separately and dropped them on the table, the patient meanwhile being asked to watch the cards closely and choose one of them, it was found that if in this process the rhythm of the motions used was disturbed at any particular card, or one of the cards was thrown beyond the others, or rotated in being dropped to the table, or, again, if a card was both preceded and followed by cards of a different color, the card so peculiarly dealt with or located was the one chosen. Again, several cards were placed upon the table, one at a time, by the experimenter, and the patient asked to choose one of them after they were all deposited; if, now, the experimenter moved his hand over the cards to straighten or rearrange them, any lingering over any particular card, or any motion imparted to one card different from that given the others, resulted in the choice of that card. In short, any method employed by which one card was rendered more or less different from the others, either by virtue of its relative location, or by virtue of motions imparted to it, or by virtue of its peculiar position relative to other cards of other colors, always resulted in the choice of that card. It was noted, however, that where the distinction was very slight, or the whole process exceedingly complicated and prolonged, the suggestion frequently failed. It seemed as if the subconscious had to understand clearly and distinctly what was required of it, so that when the conditions were such as not to bring out clearly the intentions of the experimenter, or when they became very complicated so as to give different interpretations to the experimenter's suggestions, the suggestion did not succeed.

        A pair of shears was laid on the floor. D. F. was standing on one side of them, and facing Dr. W., who stood on the opposite side. Dr. W. held up his hand and told her that she could not step over the shears, and told her to advance. She walked as far as the shears, but was unable to go farther.

        Dr. S. told her she could not pronounce her own name; at first she did, but on repeated suggestion she failed to do it. When told she would stammer, she did so.

        Dr. S. suggested to her that she could not write her name, and when challenged to do so, she failed.

 

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