The Illusion of Reality or the Reality of Illusion: Hallucinations and Culture

Ihsan Al-Issa, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1995, 166, , 368-373.


The aim of this review is to integrate research findings on the role of sociocultural factors in hallucinations and to relate these factors to current psychological theory and research.

METHOD. The literature was surveyed by manual search, and the more reliable studies selected for the review.

RESULTS. One hundred and thirteen publications were scrutinised and 30 of them were included in this review.

CONCLUSIONS. Cross-cultural concepts of reality are related to the development and the threshold of hallucinations. Attitudes toward hallucinations tend to affect the emotional reaction to, and the degree of control of, these experiences. Awareness of these attitudes may help the diagnostician to distinguish between pathological and culturally sanctioned hallucinations. It is important that therapists consider the functional significance and meaning of hallucinations as well as the social context and the stimuli associated with them.