Hypnotism is an exceptionally interesting experience to witness firsthand. With an object as ordinary as a swinging pocket watch, some individuals have the power to gain control of another person's mind by lulling them into a meditative state. The hypnotist is able to speak to the person's subconscious mind, directly bypassing their normal conscious thoughts and defenses, influencing them on their most basic level of thought. This instigates an unusual response in individuals under hypnosis, as they ignore all but what the hypnotist suggests. .
The Christopher Nolan movie Inception deals with a similar idea concerning the subconscious. In that movie an elite group of thieves commit corporate espionage by accessing the subconscious mind of their victims and implanting an idea without the target even realizing his mind had been infiltrated. It is simply perceived to be a dream. .
Both the concept of hypnotism and the plot of Inception seem like ridiculous ideas. After all, Inception is a science fiction film and hypnotism is often a cheap magic trick. Yet there is an important, and similar truth shared by both hypnotism and Inception: the subconscious mind influences and directs conscious action, often more than many realize. Infiltrate this subconscious and it is possible to influence, and perhaps even control, behaviors, attitudes and thoughts.
Advertisers have clued in on this fascinating aspect of the human mind. As early as the 1940s, advertisers used a combination of deceiving rhetoric, subliminal messaging and appeals to basic human nature in order to influence consumers to buy their products. But language was not always used to persuade listeners this way. Long ago, around 400 B.C., philosophers like Plato and Aristotle studied the art of rhetoric, and realized its true linguistic power. Yet instead of using this power for their own gain, Plato and Aristotle wrote about and discussed the virtuous use of rhetoric.