OBJECTIVE: Auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) have been associated with a range of altered cognitive functions, pertaining to signal detection, source-monitoring, memory, inhibition and language processes. Yet, empirical results are inconsistent. Despite this, several theoretical models of auditory hallucinations persist, alongside increasing emphasis on the utility of a multidimensional framework. Thus, clarification of current evidence across the broad scope of proposed mechanisms is warranted.

METHOD: A systematic search of the Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus databases was conducted. Records were screened to confirm the use of an objective behavioural cognitive task, and valid measurement of hallucinations specific to the auditory modality.

RESULTS: Auditory hallucinations were primarily associated with difficulties in perceptual decision-making (i.e. reduced sensitivity/accuracy for signal-noise discrimination; liberal responding to ambiguity), source-monitoring (i.e. self-other and temporal context confusion), working memory and language function (i.e. reduced verbal fluency). Mixed or limited support was observed for perceptual feature discrimination, imagery vividness/illusion susceptibility, source-monitoring for stimulus form and spatial context, recognition and recall memory, executive functions (e.g. attention, inhibition), emotion processing and language comprehension/hemispheric organisation.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings were considered within predictive coding and self-monitoring frameworks. Of concern was the portion of studies which - despite offering auditory-hallucination-specific aims and inferences - employed modality-general measures, and/or diagnostic-based contrasts with psychologically healthy individuals. This review highlights disparities within the literature between theoretical conceptualisations of auditory hallucinations and the body of rigorous empirical evidence supporting such inferences. Future cognitive investigations, beyond the schizophrenia-spectrum, which explicitly define and measure the timeframe and sensory modality of hallucinations, are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48674241235849
JournalThe Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2024


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