Hearing voices: Auditory hallucinations vary across cultures

STANFORD — Voices heard by some schizophrenics are strange, angry and threatening. But others hear voices that are familiar, helpful and comforting.

Varying across cultures, these voices tell us something: What we believe shapes what we hear — and how we feel, according to Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, whose first-ever cultural comparison found that Bay Area patients experienced more negative voices than patients in India and Ghana.

“The harsh, violent voices so common in the West may not be an inevitable feature of schizophrenia,” Luhrmann said. In modern psychiatry, auditory hallucinations are a sign of severe mental illness. Medication is often used to exorcise the voices.  more

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