Thematic associations between personal goals and clinical and non-clinical voices (auditory verbal hallucinations)
Filippo Varese, Sara J. Tai, Lydia Pearson & Warren Mansell
The content of voices is often self-referent, and related to concerns or salient aspects of voice-hearers’ lives. Based on a cybernetic theory of cognition and behaviour known as Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), this study examined whether the content of voices is thematically linked to the more fundamental construct of goals, i.e. internal representations of desired and undesired states. Twenty-two clinical and 18 non-clinical voice-hearers completed self-report measures of personal goals and clinical interviews to gather qualitative descriptions of voice content. Participants’ interview transcripts were systematically contrasted with their reported goals to code instances of thematic correspondence between voice content and personal goals. The analysis revealed that 33 of the 40 participants (82.5%) reported voices that thematically matched at least one of their reported goals. This study provides preliminary evidence that the content of voices is frequently associated with voice-hearers’ goals. It is proposed that personal goals receive further attention as a possible factor to understand the meaning of voices in both research and clinical contexts.