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Auditory Hallucinations of Hearing Voices in 375 Normal Subjects

Thomas B. Posey and Mary E. Losch
Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 1983, 3 (2).


Jaynes' elaborate theory of the evolution of human consciousness speculates that unconscious language use by the right hemisphere produced frequent auditory hallucinations in primitive people. Jaynes offers some explanation as to why hearing voices would now be less common. It is parsimonious, however, to predict that hearing voices is still common, although usually unreported, in the modern normal population. Some clinical literature gives support to this prediction. This study tested the prediction by means of surveying 375 college students with a two-part questionnaire. The first section presented fourteen different examples of auditory hallucinations and asked whether the subject had experienced such occurences. The second section asked for information concerning the characteristics of any hallucinated voices and for information about the subject that might relate to cerebral laterality. The results support the prediction that hearing voices is common within the normal population. Overall, 71 percent of the sample reported some experience with brief, auditory hallucinations of the voice type in wakeful situations. Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations were also reported. Teh most frequent incidents were hearing a voice call one's name aloud when alone (36%) and hearing one's thoughts as if spoken aloud (39%). Interviews and MMPI results obtained from twenty selected subjects suggested that these reports of hearing voices were not related to pathology. Further findings of a significant relationship between high rates of auditory hallucinations and the extent to which subjects reported skills in music, art, and poetry were interpreted as weak support for Jaynes' speculation that right hemisphere activity may account for auditory hallucinations. Overall, the results are seen as supportive of several of Jaynes' theoretical points.