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Hypnosis, Voluntary Action, and the Law

James J. Lippard

Program in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology, Arizona State University

November 12, 2009

The Model Penal Code identifies, "conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion," as an exception to a, "voluntary act," that is a requirement for responsibility for a crime, on the basis that such cases are involuntary and thus not the responsibility of the actor involved. This paper argues that this exception is not sufficiently well grounded in experimental evidence or known instances of criminal activity under the influence of hypnosis to justify such a general exception in the law, and that allowing such an exception has the potential to create a moral hazard by making hypnosis an excuse for criminal conduct. While such cases of coercive hypnosis may genuinely occur, the circumstances under which it may occur are narrower than the exception describes. This paper summarizes the empirical evidence from studies of hypnosis and past cases in the criminal law where hypnosis was alleged to have produced involuntary criminal actions and argues against the MPC's hypnosis exception to a voluntary act.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: hypnosis, hypnotic coercion, volition, law, crime, responsibility

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Date posted: June 20, 2011 ; Last revised: November 21, 2011

Suggested Citation

Lippard, James J., Hypnosis, Voluntary Action, and the Law (November 12, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1867824 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1867824

Contact Information

James J. Lippard (Contact Author)
Program in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology, Arizona State University ( email )
PO Box 875603
Tempe, AZ 85287-5603
United States
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