The language of altered states

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1988 Jul;176(7):401-8. doi: 10.1097/00005053-198807000-00002.


To compare the subjective experience of different forms of altered states of consciousness, computerized content analysis was applied to 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug states, or mystical ecstasy and to 28 autobiographical control accounts of important personal experiences. The patterns of lexical choice used by the four groups were significantly different in word frequencies from 49 of 83 lexical categories measured. When data from the 13 most statistically significant categories were used in discriminant and classification analyses, 84% of the samples were correctly identified by their word frequencies. These findings suggest that the subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Health
  • Autobiographies as Topic
  • Consciousness*
  • Hallucinations / chemically induced
  • Hallucinations / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Mysticism*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Self Concept