December 3, 2008

Grief Hallucinations

Scientific American has an interesting article this month titled, "Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased." The article contends that mourning is a time when people are quite prone to hallucinations:

Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved's passing. As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren't just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased.

Well... this leads me to ask. Why is Scientific American so sure that what eighty percent of people experience is unreal? Just how equipped are scientists in differentiation between hallucinations and visits from the great beyond?

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