This question was closed. I'd like to request for it to be reopened. I added a paragraph to explain why I don't consider it to be convincingly answered.

This question was never convincingly answered. Of the two answers, one was a philosophical discussion of what involuntary means and the other was anecdotal.

The Wikipedia article has a lot of discussion about hypnosis, but it doesn't address this specific question. It mentions various models of hypnosis, but the evidence for each and its implications for this specific definition of "involuntary" isn't mentioned. Furthermore, there may be a research that supports this hypothesis (or an alternative), without being directly related to one of these models.

Also, the question was closed as off-topic. It seems, to me at least, be clearly within the realm of cognitive sciences.

  • I cast the final vote which closed this question, due to concerns about it which users were raising in comments and chat. I'll reopen it if the community decides it is in topic or it's been improved sufficiently.
    – Josh
    Feb 12, 2012 at 21:18
  • Join us in discussing how to improve the question. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/2250/cognitive-sciences
    – alan2here
    Feb 12, 2012 at 22:16
  • 2
    @Casebash you should still be able to edit the quesiton, even with it closed. Edit the question into the form you want and then request it to be reopened. The community (at least those above 500 rep) will then see your request here in meta and decide to vote to reopen or not. Feb 12, 2012 at 22:34
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev: I looked at the chat but there wasn't much discussion there. I have edited the question, but there was not option to request it to be reopened
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 1:43
  • 2
    "Off topic" was just the most common (I assume) close reason. I voted as "not a real question" because it was vague. It's still possible to reopen it (we just have to vote or have a mod do it) but IMO it is lacking some specifics (why do you ask? What's not satisfactory or confusing about the WIkipedia article on hypnosis, ect)
    – Ben Brocka
    Feb 13, 2012 at 2:53
  • @BenBrocka: Why do I ask? Because I think it is interesting. Re Wiki article: It doesn't really the question. It discusses various models of hypnotism, but not directly how they apply to this situation.
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 3:04
  • @BenBrocka: What do you think is vague? "Involuntary" isn't easy to define, but I think I gave quite a clear indication of what I meant by this term. It might help to note that I wrote the original question on Skeptics, so I am simply reasking the question on this forum as I believe it is a better place to find the answer than where I posted it originally.
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 3:09
  • Please see my updated answer Casebash!
    – Josh
    Feb 17, 2012 at 15:29
  • Something similar: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1417/…
    – Chris S
    Feb 24, 2012 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


First off, I agree, it's not off-topic. I prefer 'Not a Real Question' as a close reason:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

  • What's an 'average' person?
  • Involuntarily (forced?/narcotics?/unknowingly?)
  • Which hypnosis technique?
  • Which setting?
  • Are you interested in a neurological theory? Psychological?

I removed my down vote as you are obviously invested in this question and are looking for feedback on how to improve it. Also a big thanks for starting this discussion on meta! However, the reason you didn't get any 'sufficient' answers on skeptics is the same reason you should phrase the question better here. Otherwise the same thing will just happen again.

Tell us exactly what you are interested in. From your reply to my comment on the question itself.

It isn't mandatory reading unless you want to claim that it was "already answered" there.

That's not how to phrase a proper question. Explain why, what, how the source you linked to helped you in forming this question, but where it falls short. By just linking to it stating 'it didn't answer my question' your question effectively became x times larger.

Furthermore, if you notice the scope of your question is getting too big (which I expect might be a problem) and already have complex unanswered sub-questions, try posting those separately. Formulating a question which is the result of a set of related sub-question which themselves haven't even been answered could make this question subjective/hypothetical ... not constructive.

  • Thanks for being more specific about what you consider to be ambiguous. Given that psychology isn't mathematics or computer science all questions will have some level of ambiguity. I don't believe any of the issues that you raised, or even all of them together make this question ambiguous enough that it cannot be properly answered. More detail will be in the next comment
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 12:31
  • First I'll quote the situation I gave: "Let us assume that the situation is as follows. A man is willing to play along at the start by staring into a rotating wheel or by relaxing. However, when he is given a command like "Cluck like a chicken" he will choose not to do so if he is able. If he is in a state where he performs the action either under compulsion (so he tries to resist, but cannot) or where he performs the action automatically without considering it, then I consider the hypnotism successful"
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 12:31
  • That is quite a specific definition - although obviously not mathematically rigorous. From this definition it is quite clear (in my opinion) that drugs were not being referred to, nor was there any requirement that it had to occur unknowingly. It is also quite clear that I didn't intend to limit the allowable techniques, nor do I have any preferred neurological theory in which this problem should be considered. Again, there was no intention to limit the allowable setting either.
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 12:42
  • Okay, why don't I pick one of your questions and see how many "ambiguities" I can creates (ok, I know that you created it to test the 'limits' of what was 'too basic')? cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/117/…. We all know that ego often prevents many people from changing their opinion, when they would if they were perfectly logical. So it clearly is a psychological phenomenon. So what do you really want to know? Do you want to know how the ego can override reason?
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 12:54
  • Or do you want to know what the various motivations are that can override reason? Do you want to know how strong this tendency is? Do you want to know the various logical fallacies that people use to dismiss arguments without considering them logically? Or perhaps you are interested in how someone's opinion of one part of a proposal affects their opinion of the rest? This question appears to be much more ambiguous. I mean the intent isn't clear at all - there is probably a dozen different approaches that could be taken to answering this question.
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 13:02
  • "Is this an established psychological phenomenon?" That was my question. It's really basic, but answerable. Also please keep in mind I didn't close vote your question. The community did. It's not me you have to convince, but the community. I suggest attempting to edit your question so that other people might feel it can be reopened. P.s.: By all means, if you feel it's a bad question down vote it.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Feb 13, 2012 at 13:07
  • 2
    @Casebash Though I did not downvote your question, there are a few issues. You say "given psychology is not mathematics all questions will have some ambiguity". IMHO, this reflects your misunderstanding of the field-- unless you're Freud, psychologists answer questions using statistics and models (MATH). All concepts in a theory should be well-defined to avoid such ambiguity. Your question falls into the realm of "folk psychology", which may be unanswerable because it is built on faulty premises. Bottom line is, our community here is not skeptics.SE. We have our own set guidelines.
    – Jeff
    Feb 13, 2012 at 14:02
  • 1
    @Casebash I suggest you research the literature on hypnosis FIRST (this means reading scientific articles, not Wikipedia) and come back with any questions that arise from that process. Off-the-cuff questions that do not show research are typically discouraged.
    – Jeff
    Feb 13, 2012 at 14:03
  • @Jeff: We haven't established what level of initial research is desired yet. I'd already appreciate references to wikipedia personally.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Feb 13, 2012 at 14:09
  • @Steven sure, but "none" certainly falls below the threshold-- Wikipedia wasn't even cited.
    – Jeff
    Feb 13, 2012 at 14:18
  • @Jeff: I did some research - it was just whenever I asked the original question and I didn't link to the resources as they didn't answer it. Besides, a large number of questions here don't have references
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 20:44
  • @Jeff: I can't see any faulty premises - can you name one?. Yes, you answer questions using statistics and models but the reason why the questions are ambiguous is because the definition of certain words isn't always going to be clear
    – Casebash
    Feb 13, 2012 at 21:11
  • @StevenJeuris: The question is now back up to 0. Can you please re-open it now?
    – Casebash
    Feb 22, 2012 at 5:16
  • @Casebash The question still doesn't have any reopen votes, and I still have some concerns with it (see my updated answer). Would you like some help editing it? I can edit it and if you don't like my edits, you can rollback / improve them... would that be helpful? Because as-is, I still think it should probably be closed. It's improved but not quite where I'd like to see it yet.
    – Josh
    Feb 22, 2012 at 13:55

UPDATE: Your question looks a lot better now. Good work. I'd like to see a clear question come out, however. Also, this part is still pretty unclear to me:

When he is given a command like "Cluck like a chicken" he will choose not to do so if he is able. If he is in a state where he performs the action either under compulsion (so he tries to resist, but cannot) or where he performs the action automatically without considering it, then I consider the hypnotism successful.

My understanding is that is he's hypnotized he won't want to choose not to do so. What are you trying to ask here? What's the actual question? Can you conclude the question text with a question?

I used my binding moderator vote to close this question. However, I did so when the question already had three other votes, so effectively I was casting two close votes. As I saw it, the question was likely to be closed without moderator intervention, I was just speeding that process along a little since we have a limited number of users who can cast close votes.

When the question was brought to my attention it had four downvotes, two votes to close as "Off Topic", and one vote to close as "Not A Real Question". At the time I closed the question it was nothing more than a blockquote of a question from Skeptics, and had a number of comments stating it was too basic and the answer could be clearly found in Wikipedia, and other comments stating it was not clear what you were asking. There were also a number of comments in chat that it was too basic or unclear:

Ben Brocka: @JoshGitlin lack of research effort, fairly general question since he's not asking based on any information from research, and hypnosis is quite well understood to be a voluntary phenomenon in psychology

Ben Brocka: well there's only 7 of us that can cast close votes, and 3 of them are mods

Ben Brocka: IMO the question can be answered...I just wasn't going to bother to put together a comprehensive answer for such a question when "read the damn wikipedia" should really suffice

Artem Kaznatcheev: @StevenJeuris I think we should close the question. If a question is bad and does not comply with our standard of initial research then we should make it know by voting to close, in order to discourage others from asking such questions. I will go vote to close on that question as off-topic.

Artem Kaznatcheev: @StevenJeuris at cstheory we close below-level questions as off-topic, because the scope of the site was defined as research-level, so non-research level is outside the scope. A similar thing can be done for CogSci, if the scope is questions not answerable by an obvious wikipedia search, then a question that is answered by wikipedia would be not in scope and thus off-topic.

Now with that said, I do believe I should not have gone with the majority and instead should have voted to close as "Not A Real Question" rather than "Off Topic". Steven has corrected this for me.

Now, I am not personally opposed to the question; my biggest complain with it was that it was nothing more than a block quote from another site at the time I closed it. I see it has since been improved. As a moderator my goal is to act in such a way as to carry out the wishes of the community, so if the community feels the question should be reopened then I will reopen it.

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