A detail that I found interesting in Brave New World is the way in which people are conditioned as children using sleep-tapes, or ‘hypnopaedia’. While learning about it, the students hear the case of Little Reuben, a fictional, polish-speaking child who slept with the radio on in English one night. When he woke up in the morning, he would repeat what he had heard overnight. It’s interesting to note that in both the real world and the one in the story, sleep-learning is not possible. In Brave New World, this fact was not discovered until A.F. 214. In real life, a 1956 study by Charles Simon and William Emmons debunked the idea that you could learn in your sleep. Brave New World was published in 1931, 25 years before the discovery. Huxley theorized that it wouldn’t be possible to teach facts via hypnopaedia, but rather moral teachings. Even before a child could speak, the words would be fed to them so that when they did end up thinking in words, they would think the words that they had heard so many times while they were sleeping.
History of Hypnopaedia
In 1927, Alois Salinger invented the Psycho-Phone, a device that would play sound while you were sleeping. His rationale was that since hypnotic sleep and regular sleep appeared to be similar, then you would be just as impressionable on your own bed as under a hypnotist’s pendulum. However, this wasn’t the first time someone had the idea of sleep-teaching. In 1911, a story called “Ralph 124C 21+” was published. In it were mentions of numerous futuristic inventions, but one was a sleep-teaching machine. Since then, Hypnopaedia has been used as a plot device in many books, including Brave New World.