What Is Transderivational Search? (NLP And Hypnosis)

Transderivational Search (TDS) is a process inside the human mind in which the mind automatically and unconsciously follows all associated memories from a triggering event. This is a critical part of creating meaning from experience and is heavily tied to hypnotic anchoring. In hypnosis, transderivational search may be used to create pre-frames and to invisibly direct attention.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I was first learning hypnosis was figuring out the underlying mechanism by which human minds work.

As it turns out, all that I really needed was a few simple shifts of perspective.

When we view the human mind in the right way, it is easy to understand.

And transderivational search is a key part of understanding how the human mind works.

So let’s begin with the core operating principle of the mind:

When a thought enters a human mind by whatever means, all associated memories will also be called up. The extent to which a specific associated memory is also retrieved is dependent on the strength of the association.

This means that if we would like someone to have specific thoughts, we can invisibly lead them to those thoughts by mentioning entirely different things that we know are connected in some way.

For example, if we want to cause thoughts of the ocean to begin to enter someone’s mind, we might talk about seagulls, salt, or sand dunes.

We can be more subtle about it by talking about things that are slightly further away, and throwing in more examples. So rather than talking about things found right next to the ocean, we might talk about a vacation we took where it was sunny and warm. Or vikings. Or even just feeling relaxed out in nature.

How To Use Transderivational Search To Pre-Frame

To create pre-frames using TDS, think about the things that are commonly associated with the frame you’d like your hypnosis subject to have. Then randomly add the occasional associated object into your speech. Each time you reference something associated with the frame you’d like them to have, that frame will become a little more prominent in their mind.

A pre-frame is used to set the context within which someone will hold whatever we’re talking about.

When we set a pre-frame, it makes it easier for our subject to take onboard whatever follows.

The pre-frame will also significantly shape their perception. If we ask our subject about the color of leaves, they will automatically become more alert to the presence of trees and other plants.

And of course, a consequence of that is that they will become less aware of everything else.

Similarly, if we know we’re going to be charging a high price, we might soften that by first talking about expensive things that are generally considered to be desirable by many people. This can be as simple as mentioning a show we saw where the presenter was driving a million-dollar supercar, or an amazing meal we had at a new up-market restaurant.

Naturally, it’s important to choose examples that your subject will appreciate.

In this case, the act of talking about things that are expensive and have a high perceived value sets the frame for our subject that expensive things are good.

How To Invisibly Direct Attention

To invisibly direct attention, mention things that are associated with where you’d like to lead your subject’s mind.

Previously I gave the example of causing someone to think about the ocean: The more we talk about stuff generally associated with the ocean, the more likely it will become that thoughts about the ocean itself enter our subject’s mind.

And the truth is that talking about actual objects is just one way to direct attention.

We can just as easily direct attention and set frames by talking about colors, shapes, feelings, and pretty much anything that humans can experience.

How To Modify Someone’s State With Transderivational Search

Suppose that we want someone to start to become relaxed.

For most people, the clear blue sky has a relaxing effect, as does being out in nature.

So we might start by vividly describing a walk through a park on a bright summer’s day. This could be by telling our subject a story, creating a visualization, or even just asking them about their own experience.

Anything that will cause the hypnosis subject to think about a positive experience out in nature on a clear sunny day will work.

Maybe we tell them about a picnic we had in the weekend, and how we went for a walk down the track through the cool forest to a waterfall.

We describe in vivid detail how we found a crystal clear pool at the end of the track with the waterfall cascading into it.

We talk about what it felt like cooling off by diving into that pool. How refreshing it was. The smell of the forest around us.

Everything we can do to add details to the experience will make it more real for them.

Depending on the frame we set, when we do this, our subject will typically think we are just telling them a story.

In reality, in describing things that are commonly associated with relaxation, we are guiding them into a state of relaxation themselves.

With each description, their mind performs a transderivational search and calls up all previous associated patterns.

If we put in enough details, and move their focus between the bigger picture and fine details, they will usually go into hypnosis.

The act of talking about things that are commonly associated with hypnosis will cause people to move closer to being in hypnosis themselves.


When we experience things, everything associated with them is called up in our minds to some extent.

The underlying process is known as transderivational search and it is one of the core features of the human mind.

This works in the same way as hypnotic anchoring, and with a little practice can be used to modify someone’s state and even to covertly induce hypnosis.

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