Friday, November 18

4:15 PM – 4:30 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Presenting Author: Tanya Luhrmann Stanford University

Many psychiatric clinicians and scientists assume that the voices associated with serious psychotic illness, and schizophrenia in particular, are the meaningless byproducts of disease, and that they are harsh, negative and often violent. This study compares twenty subjects, in each of three different settings, with serious psychotic disorder (they meet inclusion criteria for schizophrenia) who hear voices and compares their voice-hearing experience. We find that while there is much that is similar, there are notable differences in the kinds of voices that people seem to experience. We also find that in the non-clinical general population, we see consonant differences in the way that charismatic Christians identify the presence of God. What we think we may be observing is that people who attend to quasi-auditory cues to “hear God” and people who fall ill with serious psychotic disorder pay selective attention to a constant stream of many different auditory and quasi-auditory events because of different “cultural invitations”—variations in ways of thinking about minds, persons, spirits and so forth. Such a process is consistent with processes described in the cognitive psychology and psychiatric anthropology literature, but not yet described or understood with respect to cultural variations in auditory hallucinations and sensory overrides. We call this process “social kindling.”