March 18: …and masses easier still

Derren Brown, the television hypnotist, says that the tranche of the population most easily hypnotised is ‘young men’, especially when they are hypnotised by an older man. Another point he makes is that when hypnotising groups of people on stage a number of the hypnotees actually pretend to be hypnotised. This may be a phenomenon more marked in certain cultures where group participants might be less willing to spoil a show for an audience and so play along, or less willing to stand out from a crowd by not fulfilling the demands of the hypnotist.
All of this throws up interesting issues that may well be relevant to, amongst other things, sports psychology. An older man on the touchline of a football match, a coach or manager, one who is a potent, virulent presence, will have an effect on the young players, motivate them, drive them on to better performances. Antonio Conte storming on the touchline at Chelsea is a real plus for the team. Equally, the presence of an orchestra conductor driving an orchestra on can have a significant effect on the orchestra. This mentor figure, be it a he or she, in football, music or in schooling, is a key performance driver. It is not just children who want to please a mentor, though I suppose it needs to be a respected mentor, one with authority or charisma. So when the coach, as they say, loses the dressing room, performance statistics can plummet. See what happened to Claudio Ranieri at Leicester. Is it happening to Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? Preserving the faith of the players in the coach or manager is vital and collectively a team can sink when that bond of belief is shattered. This is tantamount to a religious experience, but when the faith in the prophet is gone, the whole system implodes.
Insecurities can be expoited. Perhaps the greater the collectivity, the easier the exploitation. A group of spectators in a theatre is easier than an individual. And cultures or masses easier still.

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