~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

The weather was stormy outside on an afternoon in March. But a crowd braved the rain to fill the Alice Peters Auditorium to hear Dr. Robert V. Levine’s lecture about “The Voices in our Heads.”

“The more I talked about voices, and the more I spoke to people about what they meant by voices,” Levine said, “the more I found that this whole idea about voices in our heads goes to the essence of what our thought processes are, what awareness is and what goes on inside our minds.”

Levine, a social psychologist and author of “Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self,” gave his lecture as part of the spring programming for Fresno State’s Center for Creativity and the Arts.

“Bob’s lecture was specifically tailored for the ‘Voice and Silence’ theme,” said Cindy Urrutia, director of the Center for Creativity and the Arts.”Bob’s research into the pathology of hearing voices in our heads was a nice complement to the literal and metaphorical play on the idea of expression in terms of how voice and silence are used, as well as an examination of the ways in which marginalized and often silent or voiceless groups express themselves.”

Levine’s lecture ranged from discussing voices in the psychotic realm to voices that speak to us under more normal conditions.

Early in the lecture, Levine played a chilling recording for the audience, capturing what someone with a mental illness might hear inside of their head.

“I want to play you something that might give you a little bit of an idea of what somebody who truly suffers from hearing voices might hear,” he said. “This is a conglomerate of the reports from a number of voice hearers.”

The audio representation that followed included a jumble of hissing, staccato words — “stupid!” “Do it! Do it!” Some words were drawn out like a slowed down recording.

“Enough of that,” Levine said as he stopped the recording. “When you hear people talking to themselves, this is something of the experience they are carrying around with them. … If you can imagine what it’s like for this kind of noise to be in your head, uncontrollable, you don’t know when it’s going to start or stop. … This is the darkest of the dark side of voice hearing.

Levine’s lecture drew a diverse crowd. Provost Dr. Lynnette Zelezny attended, along with professors from psychology and philosophy, as well as representatives from the Student Health and Counseling Center.

A professor emeritus from the Department of Psychology at Fresno State, Levine has won national and international awards for his research, teaching and writing. He served as a visiting professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niteroi, Brazil; Sapporo Medical University in Japan; Stockholm University in Sweden; and, most recently, as a fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

Levine’s latest book, which was the basis for his March 22 lecture, is published by The Press at California State University, Fresno.

Levine is also the author of “A Geography of Time” (1998) and “The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold” (2006). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, American Scientist and Discover, and he has appeared on “ABC Prime Time” and WNYC’s “RadioLab.”

“Stranger in the Mirror” is $16 and can be purchased on The Press website and on Amazon.

The theme for the 2018-19 academic year is titled “Crossroads,” Urrutia said.

“The idea of ‘Crossroads’ will examine society being at a juncture or intersection on various issues,” Urrutia said. “We will examine ideas related to the environment, geography, identity, politics, technology, etc.”