Hallucinations are a vivid illustration of the way culture affects our most fundamental mental experience and the way that mind is shaped both by cultural invitation and by biological constraint. The anthropological evidence suggests that there are three patterns of hallucinations: experiences in which hallucinations are rare, brief, and not distressing; hallucinations that are frequent, extended, and distressing; and hallucinations that are frequent but not distressing. The ethnographic evidence also suggests that hallucinations are shaped by learning in at least two ways. People acquire specific representations about mind from their local social world, and people (particularly in spiritual pursuits) are encouraged to train their minds (or focus their attention) in specific ways. These two kinds of learning can affect even perception, this most basic domain of mental experience. This learning-centered approach may eventually have something to teach us about the pathways and trajectories of psychotic illness.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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