1. Brainwashing always involves operant conditioning methods, while hypnosis may not. Hypnosis involves relaxation first, which is the opposite of the stress of brainwashing. Then it involves altering the deeper mind or “operating system” of a person in some way.
2. Brainwashing is often more superficial than hypnosis. The latter usually depends upon very early childhood experiences, including even experiences in the womb. Brainwashing may use early childhood experiences to inflict pain, but the method is not dependent upon early childhood experiences, and in this sense is more superficial. Brainwashing can be very deep and complex, however, with the creation of multiple personalities, for example, each one layered on top of another. This is more advanced brainwashing but it does occur.
3. Hypnosis does not need to be coupled with punishments or rewards to be effective or remain viable. Brainwashing is always associated with stress and pain.
4. Hypnosis or brainwashing often work better on different kinds of people. For example, a person who has been abused as a child is a better subject for brainwashing, but not necessarily hypnosis. This is because the person has experienced pain and is usually running from it. The threat or infliction of more pain is a more powerful motivator for such a person. This is why cults, at times, attract people who have been abused more as children.
Immature and unthinking people make better hypnotic subjects because they are just not thinking about things very much, so it is easier to relax them and get inside their heads, so to speak.
5. Hypnosis is often a much faster process. A post-hypnotic suggestion can be implanted in a 30-second TV commercial, for instance. Brainwashing, in contrast, usually takes more time than this, and sometimes takes months or even a few years.
6. Post-hypnotic suggestions often affect the emotional level of the brain, while brainwashing is more about the intellectual level. This is not wholly the case, but is generally so.