A Semantic Scale Network analysis of the revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire: A call for collaboration

The present paper makes case for using Semantic Scale Network (SSN) analysis in order to help inform researchers of the most appropriate scales in psychedelic clinical research. The Mystical Experience Questionnaire is analysed using SSN analysis as an example, confirming some of the scale’s novelty and convergent validity while revealing unanticipated links with constructs outside of psychedelic research (e.g. awe, stress).


Background and aims: Multiple laboratories have proposed measures of subjective effects of psychedelics as potential mediators of their therapeutic impact. Other work has identified individual differences that covary with subjective responses in informative ways. The range of potential measures of responses, traits, and outcomes is vast. Ideas for new measures are likely numerous. The field will progress efficiently if proposed new scales can add incremental validity. Semantic Scale Network analyses identify conceptual overlap among scales based on items (rather than participant ratings), which could help laboratories avoid putting effort into measures that are unlikely to account for unique variance. Semantic Scale Network analyses can also reveal links to constructs from disparate research literatures, potentially helping investigators generate novel hypotheses and explain connections among disparate findings. The results of Semantic Scale Network analyses have the potential to improve as more investigators enter their scales into the corpus.

Method: Example analyses using the revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ) underscore the uniqueness and discriminant validity of the MEQ subscales.

Results: Findings dovetail with published theorizing and suggest potentially novel links with different therapeutic effects. The MEQ total or subscales overlap with measures of awe, inspiration, regret, dissatisfaction, transcendence, depression, fatigue, and spirituality. Links with measures of stress, alexithymia, and gender identity suggest lines of further work.

Conclusion: This analytic approach might suggest unique applications for psychedelic-assisted treatments and provide perspectives on phenomena outside the field. As psychedelic researchers enter their scales to the corpus for Semantic Scale Network analyses, the field will benefit.”

Authors: Mitch Earleywine, Fiona Low & Joseph De Leo

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