Difference Between Mesmerism and Hypnotism

Key Difference – Mesmerism vs Hypnotism


Mesmerism and Hypnotism are two techniques used by practitioners to create a trance-like state in a person. This is used in psychology by psychologists to relieve patients from various psychological conditions. There exists a key difference between these two techniques. In hypnotism, words and sounds play a major role, unlike in mesmerism where the significance given to words ad sounds is minimal. This can be viewed as a key difference between the two techniques. This article attempts to provide a clearer idea of mesmerism and hypnotism by emphasizing on the differences that exist between the two techniques.

What is Mesmerism?

Mesmerism refers to a type of hypnosis developed by Franz Mesmer, who was a German doctor during the 18th century. Mesmerism is also known as animal magnetism.  A person who practices mesmerism is known as a magnetizer. Although mesmerism was not recognized as a scientific technique, there was much interest in this practice, especially in the 19th century. It is even considered as a very early form of hypnotism.

Mesmerism leads to a deep trace like state in the individual and can be used to treat various psycho somatic conditions. Studies highlight that it can be used for conditions such as arthritis as well. In mesmerism, a transfer of energy takes place between the patient and the magnetizer. This allows the magnetizer to use the energy to heal the individual from whatever condition that he is suffering from. In mesmerism, the words do not play a key role. Instead, the magnetizer uses passes to create change. This allows him to make use of the energy.

Difference Between Mesmerism and Hypnotism

What is Hypnotism?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hypnotism is the practice of causing a person to enter a state in which he responds very readily to suggestions or commands. According to experts, this increases the focus of the individual and enables them to concentrate on a particular memory. Hypnotism is used by therapists as well as performers. When used for therapeutic purposes, hypnotism aims at healing a person. It is believed that hypnotism can be used for maladaptive behavioral conditions.

In hypnotism, the sounds and words play a key role as they are used to make suggestions to the person under hypnosis. It is believed that although mesmerism does not rely on words much, mesmerism inspired the technique of hypnotism. Dr. James Braid is considered an important figure in this endeavor. Now hypnotism has changed much as it has evolved into Ericksonian hypnosis. This was developed by Milton Erickson during the 1960s.

Key Difference - Mesmerism vs Hypnotism

What is the difference between Mesmerism and Hypnotism?

Definitions of Mesmerism and Hypnotism:

Mesmerism: Mesmerism is a technique used to put a person into a trance-like state.

Hypnotism: Hypnotism is the practice of causing a person to enter a state in which he responds very readily to suggestions or commands.

Characteristics of Mesmerism and Hypnotism:

Words and sounds:

Mesmerism: Mesmerism does not rely much on words and sounds. In fact, very little sound and words are used.

Hypnotism: Hypnotism relies heavily on words and sounds.


Mesmerism: Mesmerism is considered to be effective for psycho somatic conditions.

Hypnotism: Hypnotism is effective for maladaptive behavioral conditions.


Image Courtesy:

1. A practictioner of Mesmerism using Animal Magnetism Wellcome V0011094 [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière” by André Brouillet – Photo prise dans un couloir de l’université Paris V. [Public Domain] via Commons