Scientists find out why some people can “hear” the voices of the dead

Scientists find out why some people can "hear" the voices of the dead

Scientists have identified character traits by which a person may be more likely to claim to hear voices from the dead.

According to a new study, a predisposition to high levels of task immersion, unusual auditory experiences in childhood, and a high susceptibility to auditory hallucinations are all stronger in people who call themselves “clairaudient.” The discovery may help us better understand the unpleasant auditory hallucinations that accompany mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, the researchers say.

Spiritualist experiences of clairvoyance and clairaudience attributed to the spirits of the dead are of great scientific interest to both anthropologists who study religious and spiritual experiences and scientists who study pathological hallucinatory experiences. “Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences that begin at an early age and then persist into adulthood as perceptions of the voices of the dead,” explained psychologist Peter Moseley (Peter Moseley) of Northumbria University in Britain.

He and fellow psychologist Adam Powell of Durham University in Britain recruited and interviewed 65 clairvoyant mediums from the National Spiritualists Union in Britain and 143 ordinary people to determine what distinguishes spiritualists. Overall, 44.6 percent of spiritualists reported hearing voices daily, and 79 percent said the experiences were part of their daily lives. And while most heard voices in their heads, 31.7 percent reported that the voices were also external. Compared to the general population, Spiritualists reported a much higher belief in the paranormal and were less concerned about what other people thought of them. They also reported being more prone to hallucinatory experiences. The researchers noted that they had not usually heard of spiritualism before their experience; rather, they came across it while searching for answers.

These results, the researchers said, suggest that experiencing “voices of the dead” is unlikely to be the result of peer pressure, a positive social context, or suggestibility because of belief in the paranormal. Instead, these people embrace spiritualism because it fits their experience and has personal meaning for them.

The study was published in the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture.