The effect of auditory verbal imagery on signal detection in hallucination-prone individuals

Peter Moseley*, David Smailes, Amanda Ellison, Charles Fernyhough

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Cognitive models have suggested that auditory hallucinations occur when internal mental events, such as inner speech or auditory verbal imagery (AVI), are misattributed to an external source. This has been supported by numerous studies indicating that individuals who experience hallucinations tend to perform in a biased manner on tasks that require them to distinguish self-generated from non-self-generated perceptions. However, these tasks have typically been of limited relevance to inner speech models of hallucinations, because they have not manipulated the AVI that participants used during the task. Here, a new paradigm was employed to investigate the interaction between imagery and perception, in which a healthy, non-clinical sample of participants were instructed to use AVI whilst completing an auditory signal detection task. It was hypothesized that AVI-usage would cause participants to perform in a biased manner, therefore falsely detecting more voices in bursts of noise. In Experiment 1, when cued to generate AVI, highly hallucination-prone participants showed a lower response bias than when performing a standard signal detection task, being more willing to report the presence of a voice in the noise. Participants not prone to hallucinations performed no differently between the two conditions. In Experiment 2, participants were not specifically instructed to use AVI, but retrospectively reported how often they engaged in AVI during the task. Highly hallucination-prone participants who retrospectively reported using imagery showed a lower response bias than did participants with lower proneness who also reported using AVI. Results are discussed in relation to prominent inner speech models of hallucinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
Early online date1 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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