Neither saintly nor psychotic: a narrative systematic review of the evolving Western perception of voice hearing

Renaud Evrard, Bevis Beauvais, Aziz Essadek, Joëlle Lighezzolo-Alnot, Christophe Clesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a social-historical perspective on the evolution of the voice-hearing phenomenon in Western society. Based upon a systematic search from a selection of nine databases, we trace the way hearing voices has been understood throughout the ages. Originally, hearing voices was considered a gifted talent for accessing the divine, but the progressive influence of monotheistic religion gradually condemned the practice to social marginalization. Later, the medical and psychiatric professions of secular society were instrumental in attaching stigma to both voice hearers and the phenomenon itself, thereby reinforcing social exclusion. More recently, the re-integration of voice hearers into the community by health authorities in various countries appears to have provided a new, socially acceptable setting for the phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)957154X241231690
Early online date29 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Feb 2024

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