As a result, I’ve just had a paper published in PLOS Biology that focus on one of the most striking but ignored aspects of hallucinated voices.
Here’s how I describe the central paradox in the paper:
Auditory verbal hallucinations, the experience of “hearing voices”, present us with an interesting paradox: the experiences are generated from within a single individual but are typically experienced as a social phenomenon—that is, a form of communication from another speaker.
Current theories attempt to explain auditory verbal hallucinations as alterations to individualistic information processing—namely, misattributions of internal thoughts as external phenomena due to biases in cognitive monitoring.
The fact that voices stem from an internal source is, of course, clear, but the typical experience of “hearing voices” is not that thoughts seem to be “spoken aloud” but that hallucinated voices have a social identity with clear interpersonal relevance. In other words, voices are as much hallucinated social identities as they are hallucinated words or sounds.
The article discusses the psychology and neuroscience of social processing in the experience of hearing voices and suggests how we can begin to consider this as a central component of the experience in terms of scientific research.
It’s an academic article but should hopefully be fairly accessible to most people with an interest in the science of hallucinations.
Link to article ‘A Community of One’ on social cognition and hearing voices.