Prevalence and correlates of anomalous experiences in a large non-clinical sample

Psychol Psychother. 2012 Jun;85(2):150-62. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02024.x. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Background: Anomalous experiences occur in many psychiatric conditions, but are also reported by non-patients. Given the continuum account of psychiatric symptoms and reports of dissociation between delusions and anomalous experiences, we predicted that anomalous experiences in a large non-clinical sample would (1) associate with delusion-like beliefs but not with socio-cultural beliefs and (2) that anomalous experiences would also show examples of dissociation with anomalous beliefs. A particular focus was the association between beliefs and experiences theoretically predicted to co-occur in Capgras syndrome.

Methods: The study examined the distribution and correlates of differential levels of self-reported anomalous experience in a British sample of 1,000 individuals.

Results: Anomalous experiences were found to be relatively common in the general population and were reported (occurring sometimes/often) by 48% of the sample. Being female and endorsing a non-Christian religion were the only two demographic factors related to higher experience scores. Significant relationships were found between anomalous experiences and anomalous beliefs (i.e., delusion-like and paranormal/religious), but not general societal beliefs. Dissociations between anomalous experiences and anomalous beliefs also were present but not common. No significant relationship was found between Capgras-type beliefs and experiences.

Conclusions: This large scale study demonstrated significant association between anomalous experiences and anomalous beliefs in the general population. The relationship was not, however present in all cases similar to cases reported in the clinical literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Capgras Syndrome / psychology
  • Causality
  • Culture*
  • Delusions / epidemiology*
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Demography
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / epidemiology*
  • Hallucinations / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Self Report
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult