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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Can auctions be hypnotizing?

In decades of bid calling, in 1,000’s of auctions, I have regularly noticed that many bidders seem to become lost in the bid calling, almost seemingly bidding without thought or contemplation.

I’ve wondered if this is actually what’s going on at auctions …

In fact, there is substantial evidence that humans enter into a light hypnotic state several times a day. This happens when watching television, reading a good book, playing a game and even driving — when the human brain enters a light hypnotic state — not totally unconscious, but not fully conscious either.

Even more fascinating is when someone is in this light hypnotic state, their mind is slowed down a bit, focus is narrowed, breathing is slowed and they are very open to suggestion — up to 200 more times open to suggestion, in fact, as compared to their conscious state.

I think this is exactly what’s going on at auctions …

What auctioneer couldn’t recount an auction where a bidder told them they wouldn’t go a penny past $100 and ended up paying $350 for the item a minute later? Some call this a frenzy, or a competitive fury, but it could be just as much that the bidder(s) entered a light hypnotic state, where the power of suggestion (to bid again) was greatly heightened.

Not surprisingly, over the years in the auction industry, there has been use of the phrase, “Mesmerizing sound of the auctioneer’s chant” in documentaries and educational videos. You can hear just that stated in a 10-minute video from the 1990’s put out by the National Auctioneers Association titled, “The Auction Advantage.”

Mesmerizing? Another word for hypnotizing.

Just as an engaging movie tends to cause viewers to lose track of time, a good auctioneer will use audio, visual and spatial stimuli to engage bidders to be more focused, and open to suggestion.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.

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