Altered States of Consciousness: Evaluation of a voice-hearing simulation during an immersive art exhibition

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Abstract

Aim:

To improve public understanding of the subjective experience of auditory hallucinations and increase empathy towards individuals who hear voices and have other unusual sensory experiences.

Methods:

This pilot study developed a new immersive art exhibition, Altered States of Consciousness, which gave members of the public an individualized voice-hearing simulation experience in 2 real-world settings—an art gallery and the London Underground. A total of 150 visitors completed visual analogue scales immediately before and after their experience of the exhibition.

Results:

Post-exhibition, there were significant increases in understanding what it feels like to hear voices, compassion towards voice hearers, and comfort in talking about these experiences. Participants enjoyed the simulation, felt they learned from their involvement, and did not find it stressful.

Conclusions:

The exhibition and voice-hearing simulation has further potential for public engagement and stigma reduction.

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