Introduction. Auditory hallucinations occur in schizophrenia and also in the general population. However, evidence points to differences in the nature and the mechanisms of clinical and non-clinical hallucinations, challenging the dominant assumption that they represent the same phenomenon. The current study extended this evidence by examining voice identity perception in hallucination-prone individuals. In schizophrenia, deficiencies discriminating between real (external) voices have been linked to basic acoustic cues, but voice discrimination has not yet been investigated in nonclinical hallucinations.
Methods. Using a task identical to that employed in patients, multidimensional scaling of voice dissimilarity judgements was used to examine how healthy individuals differing in hallucination-proneness (30 high and 30 low hallucination-prone individuals) distinguish pairs of unfamiliar voices. The resulting dimensions were interpreted with reference to acoustic measures relevant to voice identity.
Results. A two-dimensional “voice space”, defined by fundamental frequency (F0) and formant dispersion (Df), was derived for high and low hallucination-prone groups. There were no significant differences in speaker discrimination for high versus low hallucination-prone individuals on the basis of either F0 or Df.
Conclusions. These findings suggest voice identity perception is not impaired in healthy individuals predisposed to hallucinations, adding a further challenge to the continuum model of psychotic symptoms.