We’ve all heard rumors that governmental figures are using “mass hypnosis” to influence and sway the people of our great nations.
Most of the time, this sounds like some silly conspiracy theory. But after all the recent news about the elections, I think it's time to find out if there's any truth to the rumors.
I sat down to analyze the speech patterns of the top three candidates at the time of this writing (Mar 08): Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama.
Of course, without something to compare them to, numbers are just numbers. So I wanted to get some radically clear benchmarks for contrast. I picked one person who I'm fairly certain has no hypnotic skills – Bill Gates of Microsoft – and one who was notorious for his ability to hypnotize and influence the masses – Adolf Hitler.
In testing for hypnotic ability, I looked for these specific language patterns in a 500 word excerpt from each subject:
In addition, I made comments on whether or not, in my professional opinion, the language patterns are haphazard and incidental, or purposeful and intentional.
Bill Gates: Keynote at the 2006 CES show
12% hypnotic language. Mostly incidental. In my opinion, very representative of the average non-hypnotic speaker.
Adolf Hitler: Translated from his presentation to the Reichstag, Jan 30, 1937
45% hypnotic language. There were extensive use of presuppositions, nominalizations and modal operators similar to Ericksonian hypnotic language patterns. Though the text is translated, German is similar to English in terms of grammar and structure, and I think this is a good representation.
John McCain: Republican candidate, Jan 19, 2008 acceptance speech
18% hypnotic language. Mostly incidental. Little indication of actual hypnotic skill. Mostly, using kinesthetic predicates (feeling words) for high level concepts like patriotism, pride and duty to gain rapport with the crowd.
Hillary Clinton: Democratic candidate, Feb 5, 2008, remarks on Super Tuesday
32% hypnotic language. Mostly rapport building “matching” language. She builds universal quantifiers in an attempt to gain rapport with “everyone.”
Barack Obama: Democratic candidate, Feb 5, 2008, remarks on Super Tuesday
58% hypnotic language. Complete mastery of the language, including highly abstract pacing and leading language for creating emotion and motivation. In addition to the language patterns, he is fantastic at going higher up in level of abstraction beyond details, while still managing to sound relevant. He uses Ericksonian-style language patterns, including presuppositions and nominalizations extensively.
This is only a sample of 500 words from a single speech, but as you can see, Obama tops the crowd using nearly 60% hypnotic language patterns. In my opinion, this is purposeful language, likely written by a very skilled speech writer – perhaps someone trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming or Hypnosis.
PS – Here’s another great blog I found that echoes the same sentiment:
UPDATE – September 6, 2008: My analysis of Palin’s RNC speech using the same criteria shows 25% hypnotic language. Good speech writer, but not as good as Obama’s.
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