If you’ve ever watched a ghost hunting show, you’ve probably seen the moment in nearly every episode when they bring in the psychic or medium. This person then takes a walk around the place that’s being investigated and inevitably begins sensing people who had been there long before. Many of these psychics will say they hear the voices of these long-gone people just as people living with psychosis also hear voices.
So, what’s the difference?
According to “Varieties of Voice-Hearing: Psychics and the Psychosis Continuum”, a paper published in Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2017, voice hearing individuals should be placed on a continuum of experience rather than simply categorized as one thing or another.
“Hearing voices that are not present is a prominent symptom of serious mental illness. However, these experiences may be common in the non-help-seeking population, leading some to propose the existence of a continuum of psychosis from health to disease,” the paper’s abstract reads. “We introduce a new study population: clairaudient psychics who receive daily auditory messages. We conducted phenomenological interviews with these subjects, as well as with patients diagnosed with a psychotic disorder who hear voices, people with a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder who do not hear voices, and matched control subjects (without voices or a diagnosis). We found the hallucinatory experiences of psychic voice-hearers to be very similar to those of patients who were diagnosed.”
Using forensic psychology, the study’s researchers were able to determine that voice-hearers who identified as psychic had an easier time “turning on and off” their experience and were less likely to seek help because public reception of them was more likely to be positive. On the other hand, voice hearers who identified as psychotic were more likely to seek help because public perception of them was negative.
In other words, psychic equals good and psychotic equals bad if only in the eyes of society.
“We predict that this sub-population of healthy voice-hearers may have much to teach us about the neurobiology, cognitive psychology and ultimately the treatment of voices that are distressing,” the abstract concludes.