Introduction Negative content of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) is a strong predictor of distress and impairment. This paper quantifies emotional voice-content in order to explore both subjective (i.e. perceived) and objectively (i.e. linguistic sentiment) measured negativity and investigates associations with distress. Methods Clinical and non-clinical participants with frequent AVH (n = 40) repeated and recorded their AVH verbatim directly upon hearing. The AVH were analyzed for emotional valence using Pattern, a rule-based sentiment analyzer for Dutch. The AVH of the clinical individuals were compared to those of non-clinical voice-hearers on emotional valence and associated with experienced distress. Results The mean objective valence of AVH in patients was significantly more negative than those of non-clinical voice-hearers. In the clinical individuals a larger proportion of the voice-utterances was negative (34.7% versus 18.4%) in objective valence. The linguistic valence of the AVH showed a significant, strong association with the perceived negativity, amount of distress and disruption of life, but not with the intensity of distress. Conclusions Our results indicate that AVH of patients have a more negative linguistic content than those of non-clinical voice-hearers, which is associated with the experienced distress. Thus, patients not only perceive their voices as more negative, objective analyses confirm this.
- sentiment analysis