There is behaviour I'm looking for information about, below are two examples of this behaviour, although the 2nd example is from fiction.

The first example is featured on the TV show QI, "Jumping Frenchmen of Maine" refers to various symptoms, one is that those affected "obey any command given suddenly", there is also the suggestion that unexpectedness and a firm authoritative voice are factors too, it seems to be to do with the startle reflex although information on the startle reflex in related conditions (that arn't that related) such as Tourette don't seem to provide much information.

The other example is from the book Ella Enchanted where Lucinda gave Ella the gift of obedience, which turns out to be a curse because Ella must now obey any order given to her. She does not have to obey when people say 'I wish' or 'Will you', this is relievent as they are not instructions, they are requests.

Is there more information avalible specifically about this symptom, in either the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine or other disorders?

Others have related thease behaviours to submission, although information about submissive behaviour shows it being to do with seeking out degrading situations or wanting others to make you do things or wanting others to make you want to do things, or even lacking motivation to make decisions for yourself, none of which are relevant.

Somone with the condition I've covered above would probably, for example, try and avoid most people because it would be so dangerous. Imagine if having been told to do something you then had to do it immediately, by that point it would be "what you are doing", even if not what you want to do, any harmless comment could cause you harm or cause you to think differently.

Perhaps there is something psychologically significant about instructions, especially by authority figures, have you ever been told to do something and then almost started moving to do it before thinking about what was said, I suspect everyone is more susceptible during daydreams or hypnotic states, if caught during the right moment in mental processing.

For some, being instructed to do something has the opposite effect, inducing an instinctive reaction of resistance, even if the instruction is then obeyed, but this still shows a strong psychological reaction. This could be to do with how following instructions and being good at listening to instructions is often established and enforced frequently at a young age.

To recap, those affected:

  • Must obey commands but not if they are in some respect questions or suggestions.
  • More so if given suddenly, unexpectedly, in a firm voice and authoritively.


  • Apparently to do with the startle reflex.
  • Not, at least standard, Tourette.
  • Not, at least standard, Submission.
  • Apart from where told what to think one would not want to obey.
  • Please help me tag this question correctly.
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    $\begingroup$ the first example you give is about suddenly giving commands. The second is about commands in general... which do you want information about? (i.e. I don't think the second example is relevant) $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Feb 12 '12 at 1:49
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    $\begingroup$ fictional examples are not real examples. most of this is conjecture. no sources sites. no research effort (wikipedia "jumping frenchmen of maine"). vote to close, NARQ. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Nov 20 '12 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for comments even after such time. Artem Kaznatcheev, I think the 2nd example is part of the same thing, despite the differences. Jeff, where there is so little available, the fictional example does give some information, it is part of researching into it, so is this question as well as other research nearly all of which returned no information. I've covered most of this in the question and don't appreciate threatening votes to close or your assertion either that I have done no research or that it is not a real question. Also see the +4 upvote status and inclusion in the twitter feed. $\endgroup$ – alan2here Nov 24 '12 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Jeff, I may be able to rearrange and mark the conjecture as so, its inclusion is clearly important to the question. $\endgroup$ – alan2here Nov 24 '12 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ Concerns have been raised regarding the legitimacy of this question. It does not seem to be rooted in literature or actual observed facts, and thus is hard to answer. Adding additional motivation (non-personal) for this question might improve it. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris May 31 '14 at 11:29