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29. Aberrant Auditory Perceptions & Social Experiences in Young Adults
Prior research has demonstrated that even the mere suggestion of the presence of an auditory stimulus may be enough for individuals to subsequently perceive an auditory stimulus in the absence of any real stimuli (Barber & Bentall, 1964). In this study, we attempt to elicit aberrant auditory perceptions in healthy young adults. The task in our study is based off of the original “White Christmas” study by Barber and Bentall (1964). In our modified study, participants are asked to listen to white noise for three minutes and signal if and when they hear the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” being played. Importantly, unknown to the participants, the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is never played along with the white noise; any report of the song being heard indicates the presence of a hallucination. Approximately 33.3% of the healthy college-aged adults in this study reported that they believed hearing the song playing more than once during the task, a percentage consistent with previous studies (Merckelbach & van de Ven, 2001). Additionally, we observe trend level differences on self-reports of personality and social functioning variables between groups. Participants with hallucinatory reports had higher scores on measures of schizotypy, magical ideation, and loneliness relative to participants without hallucinatory reports. These findings provide evidence for individual variability in the propensity to report hallucinatory experiences within a typically developing population. Moreover, this study is important in that it identifies variables that may be associated with an increased likelihood to experience psychotic symptoms.