Automatic Writing is the process of writing without using the conscious mind. The technique is used in Hypnosis Focus Groups to deep-dive for emotional content from respondents' subconscious minds. The technique is used in addition to direct questioning about their emotions relative to the topics in the discussion guide. With this technique respondents are told to visualize a blackboard and to write on it, using a visualized piece of chalk, the words or pictures that describe their emotional response to the stimulus or questions given to them by the moderator. The stimulus might be to ask them to write their reactions to a brand name, or a particular word or phrase, or to complete a sentence. They are then asked to explain why they wrote the words or pictures, and further discussion then proceeds with the group.
The advantage of Automatic Writing is that the subconscious provides "instant" responses compared with the usual "lag" from respondents which is typical in traditional groups where their conscious minds "filter" the answers to guard their emotions. The technique of Automatic Writing using hypnosis has been validated by many academic studies as an efficient way to explore the subconscious.
Automatic Writing was originally used in Spiritualism and the New Age movement as a method of "channeling" spirits, and was used in séances by mediums . During the Surrealist Art movement, Automatic Writing was one of many ways artists used produce original works of art. It is also believed that many writers produced material that they would not have written by using only their conscious mind.
Edmund Gurney, Charles Richet, and William James, 19th century psychologists, are generally credited with first using Automatic Writing in the psychological field. Pierre Janet , a French psychologist , was a pioneer of Automatic Writing in the field of hypnoisis. Automatic writing has been used as a tool in Freudian psychoanalysis where it is a way to get insight into the mind of the patient through their subconscious word choices.
Today, psychological clinicians use Automatic Writing to interact directly with the subconscious. When using Automatic Writing, patients have no conscious knowledge that writing is occurring . Such writing can aid the therapeutic process by allowing hidden psychological material to be obtained. Additionally, the part of the brain that controls Automatic Writing is believed to have access to information that is unavailable to the brain centers that control speech. Automatic Writing can thereby uncover information not accessible through verbalization.
I began using Automatic Writing in Hypnosis Focus Groups 40 years ago, and have found it to be an exciting way to discover new and different emotional content from respondents. A typical questioning process (with respondents eyes closed) would be as follows, using a cosmetic brand as the example:
Now I want you to visualize that there is a blackboard in front of you. And next to the blackboard is a piece of chalk. Now I want you to take the chalk and write on the blackboard, using words and/or pictures, to tell me how you feel when I say the __________ cosmetic brand.
Then, each respondent, in turn, is asked what they wrote and why they wrote that. A series of “laddering” probes are also used at this point to deep-dive further into the emotional content about the brand, and its foundational elements. At the end of that questioning process, respondents can comment about what they have heard from other members of the group. The information from Automatic Writing Hypnosis Focus Group sessions has been used by many companies to better understand the emotional map of their brands.
For more information about this or other unique techniques using Hypnosis Focus Groups, please contact us.