Auditory Hallucinations May Vary Across Cultures

An interesting interview highlighting the impact of culture and different social environments on the experience of ‘voice hearing’:

Auditory Hallucinations May Vary Across Cultures

For people with schizophrenia, hearing voices can be terrifying. But that’s not necessarily true everywhere in the world. Stanford University anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann tells NPR’s Arun Rath about her research, which suggests that people with psychotic disorders hear voices differently, depending on their social and cultural environments.

“The Americans I spoke to, they felt assaulted by horrible voices that told them that they were worthless and they should die. Those voices were full of violence. In Ghana, the Africans heard an audible God who told them not to ignore those evil voices. And in Chennai, people heard annoying relatives who told them to do chores and cleanup.”

“…Americans think of their minds as a private fortress. And they have this model that when you hear an audible voice, it means that your mind is broken. And I think people find that terribly upsetting. I think they’re different social invitations in Chennai and Accra. I think that there’s a much more of a invitation to think about things supernatural, to think about the religious world, to interpret these experiences as the voice of a spirit. Particularly in Chennai, there’s this invitation to a much more social world to interpret that auditory experience as if it’s another person. Somehow, this kind of – this sense of private violation is so much more salient to the Americans than it was to people in these two other worlds.”

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