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World Psychology: Psychology by Country · Psychology of Displaced Persons

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Latah is a condition of hyperstartling found in southeast Asia that is commonly considered a culture-specific syndrome. It is also the name for those with the condition, which is found mainly in adult women. The afflicted have a severe reaction to being surprised or shocked and display abnormal suggestibility accompanied by echolalia, echopraxia and a state resembling a trance in which they lose control of their behavior, mimic the speech and actions of those around them and obey any commands given them. Latahs are generally not considered responsible for their actions during these episodes.

Alternative terms[edit | edit source]

Similar conditions have been recorded in other parts of the world[1] such as:

The connection between these behaviors remains unclear.[How to reference and link to summary or text]. The connection among these syndromes has been controversial.[2]

While the Ainu blame imu on possession by snakes.

Features[edit | edit source]

Each episode can last more than 30 minutes. Persons who have this disorder will mimic movements of other people like a child would do during certain developmental stages. Latah was apparently culture-specific, widespread among Malayan[3] people,[4] but affected only on certain individuals. It was well known to the native themselves, but they regarded it as personal quirk rather than a form of insanity.[2][5] These people are often made fun of or teased by relatives and or friends. This disorder often times limits the person's ability to maintain healthy social interactions and may lead to public embarrassment or isolation of the individual suffering from Latah. The disorder is found most often in women in certain world cultures and is therefore commonly considered a culture-specific syndrome.[6] The disorder is also thought to be brought on by traumatic life experiences like the death of a child, or a repressed desire.

Latah, is the name for those with the condition. Latahs are generally not considered responsible for their actions during these episodes.

Origins[edit | edit source]

As stated above, latah occurs among Malayan cultures most prevalently. This is due to the fact that the culture habitually engages and is "capable of dissociative behaviors." Malays, especially women, take part in encouraging their children to make Islamic religious gestures before they are able to know what they are doing, and these are to be done through dissociative behavior. Children, when older, even participate in games that promote this trance like behavior so as to learn to dissociate {1}. Because these actions are encouraged, it is said to cause the culture bound syndrome of latah to be triggered.

Psychiatric Condition v Cultural Condition[edit | edit source]

Natives experiencing latah often view the symptoms as quirks rather than a psychiatric condition or insanity. However, those suffering endure much ridicule and social attacks because of their conditions. Unfortunately, the conditions are viewed as simply part of the culture, yet these individuals, at times, are unable to carry out normal lives in society, therefore causing these individuals to be outcasts. Furthermore, because their condition is not taken seriously, they go without help or treatment.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Coleman,A F (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, 2nd ed. Oxford:OUP.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Winzeler, Robert L. (1995). Latah in Southeast Asia: The History and Ethnography of a Culture-bound Syndrome, 33–51, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. URL accessed 2008-02-26.
  3. The term "Malayan" is used in inclusive sense to refer both Malays and Javanese, to which the great majority of latah studies pertain, as well as to other related ethnic groups (Sundanese, Iban, Ambonese, Balinese, Batak, etc.)
  4. Farlex (2013)Definition of Latah. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from freedictionary [1]
  5. Gimlette,J. (2103, March 5). Remarks on the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of latah, with a report of two cases. Retrieved March 5, 2013 from PMC.[2]
  6. Gimlette, J. (1897, August 21). Remarks on the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of latah, with a report of two cases. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from PMC [3]

External links[edit | edit source]

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