Reading characters in voices: Ratings of personality characteristics from voices predict proneness to auditory verbal hallucinations

Mitrenga, Kaja Julia, Alderson-Day, Ben, May, Lucy, Moffatt, Jamie, Moseley, Peter orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9284-2509 and Fernyhough, Charles (2019) Reading characters in voices: Ratings of personality characteristics from voices predict proneness to auditory verbal hallucinations. PLOS ONE, 14 (8). e0221127.

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People rapidly make first impressions of others, often based on very little information–minimal exposure to faces or voices is sufficient for humans to make up their mind about personality of others. While there has been considerable research on voice personality perception, much less is known about its relevance to hallucination-proneness, despite auditory hallucinations being frequently perceived as personified social agents. The present paper reports two studies investigating the relation between voice personality perception and hallucination-proneness in non-clinical samples. A voice personality perception task was created, in which participants rated short voice recordings on four personality characteristics, relating to dimensions of the voice’s perceived Valence and Dominance. Hierarchical regression was used to assess contributions of Valence and Dominance voice personality ratings to hallucination-proneness scores, controlling for paranoia-proneness and vividness of mental imagery. Results from Study 1 suggested that high ratings of voices as dominant might be related to high hallucination-proneness; however, this relation seemed to be dependent on reported levels of paranoid thinking. In Study 2, we show that hallucination-proneness was associated with high ratings of voice dominance, and this was independent of paranoia and imagery abilities scores, both of which were found to be significant predictors of hallucination-proneness. Results from Study 2 suggest an interaction between gender of participants and the gender of the voice actor, where only ratings of own gender voices on Dominance characteristics are related to hallucination-proneness scores. These results are important for understanding the perception of characterful features of voices and its significance for psychopathology.

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