Voice hearing (also known as auditory verbal hallucinations) is a common experience amongst people who receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. For many people, such experiences are associated with significant distress and disruption, which contributes significantly to their need for psychiatric care. There is increasing recognition however that voice hearing is not uncommon within the general, non-help-seeking population, where such experiences are typically not associated with any significant distress. It has been proposed that comparing the experiences of voice hearers with and without a 'need for care' might shed light on the factors that contribute to, or protect against, the emergence of distress in relation to voice hearing experiences. Identification of such factors can inform the further development of psychological interventions targeting voice-related distress.
The proposed study will use the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to compare the day-to-day voice hearing experiences of 30 voice hearers with a need for psychiatric care, and 30 voice hearers without such a need. ESM items will ask participants to report on the strength of a variety of experiences which occurred in the moment prior to the smartphone beeping, including a) features of the voices themselves, b) the beliefs people have about these experiences, c) how they respond when they hear a voice, d) what are the environmental ‘triggers’ of these voices, etc.
Compared to voice hearers with no need for care, voice hearers with a need for care will:
1. Report a higher frequency and mean momentary intensity of negative voice content, negative beliefs about voices and hostile responses to voices.
2. Demonstrate greater reactivity in terms of the impact of everyday stressors on momentary psychotic experiences and self-beliefs.
3. Demonstrate closer ‘coupling’ between momentary self-, social- and voice-beliefs, in that negative momentary self and social beliefs will better predict subsequent negative voice beliefs.