Todd Landman Academic Magician
October 22, 2020Todd Landman

The Orne Experiments

Sir Patrick Stewart Theatre

In the autumn of 1985, Todd Landman was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was taking a course on the introduction to psychology. He attended a guest lecture on hypnosis by Professor Martin T. Orne , an expert on the possible memory effects of hypnosis and advocate working on the topic of false memory syndrome. Orne was concerned about how hypnosis was being used on people to conjure false memories from their childhoods and the unreliability of hypnosis as a means to evoke such memories.

The lecture concluded with an invitation to take part in hypnosis experiments at Professor Orne's institute in West Philadelphia. Todd Landman volunteered and over a period of weeks would attend the institute for a series of susceptibility tests, ideomotor experiments, and a memory recall experiment using simple black and white images to test whether hypnosis enhanced recall, a phenomenon known as hypermnesia. The test involved looking at a bank of 40 images and then coming back to the institute for successive sessions that tested his recall of the images under hypnosis.

For many years after this experience, Todd Landman developed his interest in hypnosis further, using collections of students and colleagues to explore different techniques further. His study of magic and mentalism, combined with this pursuit of an interest in hypnosis led to conducting what become known as The Orne Experiments.

With an audience of 75 drama students and members of the general public at the Sit Patrick Stewart Theatre at the University of Huddersfield, Todd Landman carried out these experiments with a bank of image cards, a Buddha Machine ambient music device, a stopwatch, and a counter, where he carried out susceptibility tests, memory tests, and explored the potential for mind to mind communication.

Ideomotor Response Demonstration

Those who attended the event were not sure exactly what they experienced, but throughout the evening, they felt their hands float, their arms stiffen to feel like iron rods, and their minds to travel back in time to early childhood memories. The recall experiment showed enhanced performance while the ambient music was playing, while the tests finished with Todd Landman correctly identifying two images that had been chosen and which were only known to two of the audience members.

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