We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Centre for Medical Humanities

Hearing the Voice

Hearing the Voice is a large interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing led by researchers at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Usually associated with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and psychosis, hearing voices can also be an important aspect of many ordinary people’s lives. We seek to examine this phenomenon from as many different relevant perspectives as possible.

Our international research team, , directed by Charles Fernyhough (PI) and Angela Woods (Co-director), includes academics from cognitive neuroscience, cultural studies, English literature, medical humanities, linguistics, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology and theology. We also work closely with mental health professionals, voice-hearers and other ‘experts by experience’.

So far there have been two distinct phases of our research. The first phase of our project, which ran from 2012 to 2015, was funded by a Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust. In addition to exploring the subjective experiences of voice-hearing, we investigated their underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms, and the ways in which hearing voices has been interpreted and represented in different cultural, historical and religious contexts.

We have now received a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science which will enable us to continue our research into voice-hearing until 2020. The second phase of our project will extend our initial enquiry into voice-hearing into seven new research domains. In addition to shedding light on the relations between hearing voices and everyday processes of sense perception, memory, language and creativity, we will explore why it is that some voices (and not others) are experienced as distressing, how they can change across the life course, and the ways in which voices can act as important social, cultural and political forces.

Our project will continue to develop new methods for interdisciplinary research into human experience, and transform the way in which voice-hearing is managed, treated and understood through a comprehensive online resource for voice-hearers and mental health professionals, as well as an ambitious arts-led programme of public engagement.

For more information about Hearing the Voice, please see the project website and blog.

For a list of our research outputs, please see our publications page.

Contact Details

Hearing the Voice
c/o School of Education
Durham University
Leazes Road 

Tel: +44 (0)191 3348163