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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

BRAID, JAMES (1795-1860), British physician.

In 1841 Braid attended a demonstration of animal magnetism in Manchester given by the well-known Swiss magnetizer Charles Lafontaine (1803-1888). Braid saw. to his surprise, that the phenomenon was genuine. He was unwilling, however, to accept the explanation given by Lafontaine. Instead, he did his own experiments and developed his own theory. Braid concluded that the phenomenon of animal magnetism was due to a “derangement of the state of the cerebrospinal centres, and of the circulatory, and respiratory, and muscular systems” (Neurypnology, p. 101). He insisted that no magnetic fluid was involved and that an individual could go into a somnambulistic state simply by staring at a fixed object. Braid called his new approach neurohypnotism, a term he first used in a pamphlet entitled Satanic Agency and Mesmerism Reviewed (Manchester, 1842). Braid developed his ideas more fully in his magnum opus Neurypnology or The Rationale of Nervous Sleep; here he shortened the name to “hypnotism.”

In his later writings, Braid moved toward a more psychological description of hypnotism, describing it essentially as concentrated attention and emphasizing the role played by suggestion, an “expectant idea in the mind.” He pointed out that people can be taken over by a “dominant idea” that powerfully affects their psychological and physiological state. Thus an individual can be made ill by a negative dominant idea that becomes fixed in the mind. On the other hand, that illness can be cured by a physician who, through suggestion, induces a dominant idea of the opposite kind. Braid came to believe that the main task of the hypnotic physician was to treat illnesses through suggestions of this kind.


Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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