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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Adam Powell

Powell, Adam & Moseley, Peter (2020). When spirits speak: Absorption, attribution, and identity among spiritualists who report ‘clairaudient’ voice experiences. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture 23(10): 841-856.

Author(s) from Durham


For mental health researchers and others committed to a bio-cultural understanding of religious experience, there is a need for empirical studies capable of shedding light on the interplay between beliefs, personalities, and the occurrence of anomalous sensory experiences. Absorption, a trait linked to one’s tendency to become immersed in experience or thought, may be key for understanding that relationship. Spiritualist mediums (N = 65) completed an online questionnaire assessing the timing, nature, and frequency of their auditory (clairaudient) spiritual communications – including scales measuring paranormal beliefs, absorption, hallucination-proneness, and aspects of identity. These measures were compared to a general population group (N = 143), with results showing higher levels of auditory hallucination-proneness and absorption among the Spiritualists as well as correlations between spiritual beliefs and absorption, but not spiritual beliefs and hallucination-proneness, for the general population. Findings are discussed in relation to attribution models of religious experience and the complexity of “absorption” as a construct.