Emma Palmer-Cooper, 2nd July, 2019


The term “hallucination” refers to a wide range of perceptual experiences that occur in the absence of sensory input. In other words, it means hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that others do not.

For a number of people, the term “hallucination” is problematic. Using this term can reduce or dismiss how “real” the experiences feel, or can cause people to doubt their interpretation of these experiences. An alternative way to talk about this is to use language about the experience is often preferred, using terms such as voices, visions, presences, or simply unusual experiences.

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As a group of researchers, we use “hallucination” to describe the full range of these unusual sensory and perceptual experiences, as it is still the most commonly used term in academia. Having a clear “key term” is particularly important in our case when communicating and share research findings. For example, when searching for other research in similar areas, if a number of different are used, locating other people’s work can become very difficult.

However, we believe that no one word or description will adequately express the range of diverse experiences that people can have, and encourage our members to use the terminology that best fits with their approach when discussing or explaining their research. In our work and in the way we talk about research, our aim is use language that reflects the diversity of these experiences and our membership in a non-judgmental way.