School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles

Claire Mitchell

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Unusual Visual Experiences and Hallucinations in the Non-Clinical Healthy Population: The Role of Perceptual and Cognitive Processes


Contrary to common belief, hallucinations are experienced by between 10%-15% of individuals without a physical or mental illness over their lifetime. Visual hallucinations are typically associated with eye disease, Parkinson's disease, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Despite this, around 7% (21% of university students) of the general community are thought to experience visual hallucination-like phenomena, ranging from simple (e.g., dots and flashes) to more complex (e.g., animals and people) experiences. Cognitive theoretical models of VH developed in clinical populations posit that they arise due to a combination of bottom-up sensory deficits and top-down attentional/executive dysfunctions. However, the mechanisms contributing to unusual visual experiences in the general population remain unknown. The objective of my project is to examine the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms of visual hallucination-like experiences in healthy individuals, as informed by existing research on hallucinations in both non-clinical and clinical populations. Specifically, I will be investigating the role of object perception, cognitive control (inhibition and attention), impulsivity (signal sensitivity), and psychological biases.

Why my research is important

Little research has investigated the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms underlying visual hallucinations in the non-clinical healthy population. The findings of this project will contribute to a better understanding of the processes underlying such phenomena. Research on the aetiology of hallucinatory phenomena has important implications for the future development of targeted interventions for individuals at high-risk for hallucinations, and those experiencing such phenomena at clinically-significant levels.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety Net Top-Up Scholarship


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Last updated:
Friday, 23 January, 2015 3:27 PM