Auditory verbal experience and agency in waking, sleep onset, REM, and non-REM sleep

Jana Speth (Lead / Corresponding author), Trevor A. Harley, Clemens Speth

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7 Citations (Scopus)
301 Downloads (Pure)


We present one of the first quantitative studies on auditory verbal experiences (“hearing voices”) and auditory verbal agency (inner speech, and specifically “talking to (imaginary) voices or characters”) in healthy participants across states of consciousness. Tools of quantitative linguistic analysis were used to measure participants’ implicit knowledge of auditory verbal experiences (VE) and auditory verbal agencies (VA), displayed in mentation reports from four different states. Analysis was conducted on a total of 569 mentation reports from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, non-REM sleep, sleep onset, and waking. Physiology was controlled with the nightcap sleep–wake mentation monitoring system. Sleep-onset hallucinations, traditionally at the focus of scientific attention on auditory verbal hallucinations, showed the lowest degree of VE and VA, whereas REM sleep showed the highest degrees. Degrees of different linguistic-pragmatic aspects of VE and VA likewise depend on the physiological states. The quantity and pragmatics of VE and VA are a function of the physiologically distinct state of consciousness in which they are conceived.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-743
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number3
Early online date22 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Auditory verbal hallucinations
  • Inner speech
  • Hypnagognic hallucinations
  • Consciousness
  • Phenomenology
  • Hearing voices
  • Quantitative linguistic analysis
  • Dreaming


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