People who are prone to high levels of absorption in mental tasks and activities are more likely to claim to be able to ‘hear the dead’, a new study has revealed. Scientists have uncovered the key trait in ‘clairaudient spiritualist mediums’ who claim to able to hear the voices of dead people.
Their results suggest that people who are prone to immersive mental activities, as well as those who were exposed to an ‘unusual auditory experience’ in early life, are more likely to claim to be able to communicate with the deceased. The team hopes the findings will help to understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices.
In the study, researchers from Durham University conducted a survey of 65 mediums from the Spiritualists’ National Union. Over 44 per cent of the participants reported hearing voices of the dead on a daily basis, while 33.8 per cent said they’d heard a voice within the last day. While spirits were mainly heard inside the head, 31.7 per cent said they experienced the voices coming from both inside and outside the head.
To understand the key traits of these mediums, the researchers surveyed 143 members of the general public for comparison. The results revealed that the mediums were more likely to immerse themselves in mental or imaginative activities, or experience altered states of consciousness. Mediums were also more likely to report hearing voices in early life.
Speaking to MailOnline, Dr Adam Powell from Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project and Department of Theology and Religion and lead author of the study, explained: ‘Some recall seeing and hearing a deceased loved one in their own home, often in their bedroom at night. ‘Others recall having conversations with invisible others from as early as they can remember.’
Spiritualists reported first hearing the dead at an average age of 21.7 years. However, 18 per cent of spiritualists reported having hearing voices ‘for as long as they could remember’. Dr Powell said: ‘Our findings say a lot about “learning and yearning”. ‘For our participants, the tenets of Spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practicing mediums.
‘But all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough.’ While members of the public with high absorption rates were more likely to believe in the paranormal, the team found no significant link between belief and proneness to hallucinations.
Overall, the findings indicate that some people may be uniquely predisposed to absorption, and are more likely to report hearing the dead. Dr Peter Moseley, co-author on the study at Northumbria University, said: ‘Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences which are positive, start early in life and which they are often then able to control. ‘Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too.’