Scientists have identified the characteristics that make someone more likely to believe they hear voices from the dead.
Research published in the spring of this year found that people who are self-described as clairaudient mediums have a greater tendency to experience auditory hallucinations, high levels absorption in tasks and unusual auditory experiences in their childhood.
Researchers believe that the findings could aid in understanding the disturbing auditory hallucinations associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
Spiritualist experiences of clarityvoyance and hearing, which is the ability to see or hear something without an external stimulus, are of great scientific interest for both anthropologists who study religious and spiritual experiences and scientists who study pathological hallucinatory experiences.
Researchers would like to understand why some people who have auditory experiences experience a Spiritualist experience are more distressing than others.
When the study was first published, Peter Moseley, a Northumbria University psychologist in the UK, stated that spiritualists report unusual auditory experiences that are positive and start early in their lives.
Understanding how they develop is crucial because it can help us understand distressing or uncontrollable experiences of hearing voices.
His colleague, psychologist Adam Powell from Durham University in the UK, recruited and surveyed 65 mediums who were clairaudient. The survey also included 143 people recruited via social media to find out what made Spiritualists different from the general population, who (usually) don't report hearing voices from the dead.
Overall, 44.6 per cent of Spiritualists reported hearing voices every day, while 79 percent stated that the experiences were part and parcel of their daily life. While most Spiritualists reported hearing voices in their heads, 31.7 percent said they also heard voices from outside.
The survey results were stunning.
Spiritualists had a higher level of belief in the paranormal than the general population and were less likely not to care about what others think.
Spiritualists reported that they had their first auditory experience at a young age, an average of 21.7 years. They also reported high levels of absorption. This is a term that refers to total immersion in mental tasks or altered states. It also describes how well an individual can tune out the world around him.
They also reported being more susceptible to hallucinations-like experiences. Researchers noted that they had not heard of Spiritualism before their experiences. They discovered it when searching for answers.
High levels of absorption in the general population were strongly associated with belief and susceptibility to auditory hallucinations. There were no differences between the belief levels in the paranormal or susceptibility to visual hallucinations in both groups.
According to the researchers, these results suggest that the experience of hearing the voices of the dead is unlikely to be due to peer pressure, positive social circumstances, or suggestibility due the belief in the paranormal. These individuals instead choose Spiritualism as it is a natural fit with their experiences and has personal meaning to them.
"Our findings reveal a lot about learning and yearning." Powell stated that Spiritualism seems to help participants make sense of their extraordinary childhood experiences and the auditory phenomena they experience frequently as practicing mediums.
"But all those experiences might result more from certain tendencies or early capabilities than simply believing that one can contact the dead if they try hard enough."
They suggested that future research should be conducted in a range of cultural contexts in order to better understand the relationship between belief and absorption.
The research was published in Mental Health, Religion, and Culture.
This article was published for the first time in January 2021.