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Voice Lessons

Gaining a better understanding of elite athletes’ inner monologue, and of our own mental landscape

It’s often thought that world-famous athletes hype themselves up into a fit of frenzy or descend into a state of serene calm in order to excel in front of huge crowds. But many athletes can’t help but hear one voice inside their heads—that of their coach, who seems to guide them every step of the way. Stanford anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann spent two years interviewing elite athletes about what went through their heads while competing, and she joins web editor Violet Lucca to discuss her findings. Lucca and Luhrmann discuss the lingering effects for athletes who cede internal authority, as well as how others groups of people—such as evangelicals and those with schizophrenia—experience the voices that guide or threaten them. These relationships are often complex, and Lucca and Luhrmann explore the idea that hearing voices isn’t necessarily cause for alarm, but a part of our rich mental landscape that often goes undiscussed. By understanding how culture and human intention affect our interior world, we may come to a deeper understanding of the mind.

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February 2018

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