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Double Bind Questions

 

Techniques > Questioning > Double Bind Questions

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Double bind questions are questions that, whichever way you answer, the result is the same.

Hence you are 'damned if you do, and damned if you don't'.

A common structure of a double-bind question is of the form:

assumptive of bad thing + question about frequency

Thus you might take a statement about the person doing something wrong, such as stealing, then assume that they are doing this thing and consequently turn the question to how often then are doing it.

By framing the question as closed, the other person is thus expected to answer only yes or no and cannot deny the assumption.

Example

Are you lying again?

Have you stopped beating your wife?

When do you want to help us?

Discussion

The double bind as a notion originated in studies of schizophrenia, where sufferers of this debilitating condition become trapped between two mutually exclusive demands (which can be rooted in excessive childhood requirements by parents and teachers).

As a persuasive device, it is somewhat coercive in nature as it seeks to deny the person questioned free choice.

The best response to a double-bind question is to treat it as an open question and respond to the assumption rather than the closed question.

What makes you think I might lie?

I have never beaten my wife and never will. I find assault of others completely repugnant, and assault of women especially so.

Double binds also may occur where a command is given and the person commanded feels that by complying they are giving in to the other person (which damages the ego), but by not complying they risk punishment (which also damages the ego).

See also

Open and Closed questions, Double Bind (in general), Double Bind (in hypnotism)

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