Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

A pilot study (n=14) on how psychedelics increase nature relatedness and decrease authoritarianism. Although the active participants (n=7, with treatment-resistant depression) increased on both, their final scores on those measures were very similar to that of the non-treated (non-depressed) group.


Rationale: Previous research suggests that classical psychedelic compounds can induce lasting changes in personality traits, attitudes and beliefs in both healthy subjects and patient populations.

Aim: Here we sought to investigate the effects of psilocybin on nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

Methods: This open-label pilot study with a mixed-model design studied the effects of psilocybin on measures of nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective in patients with moderate to severe TRD (n=7) versus age-matched non-treated healthy control subjects (n=7). Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 mg and 25 mg) 1 week apart. Main outcome measures were collected 1 week and 7–12 months after the second dosing session. Nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective were assessed using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NR-6) and Political Perspective Questionnaire (PPQ-5), respectively.

Results: Nature relatedness significantly increased (t(6)=−4.242, p=0.003) and authoritarianism significantly decreased (t(6)=2.120, p=0.039) for the patients 1 week after the dosing sessions. At 7–12 months post-dosing, nature relatedness remained significantly increased (t(5)=−2.707, p=0.021) and authoritarianism remained decreased at trend level (t(5)=−1.811, p=0.065). No differences were found on either measure for the non-treated healthy control subjects.

Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.

Authors: Taylor Lyons & Robin L. Carhart-Harris


Earlier studies have shown that psychedelics can promote enduring changes in personality traits, attitudes, and beliefs (e.g. MacLean et al., 2011). This paper builds on the work that has been done before and looks specifically at how psychedelics relate to nature-relatedness and political perspectives. Although this study was only done with a small group of participants (7 in the active condition, 7 control), a later study by Kettner and colleagues (2019) did also confirm the nature-relatedness results in an online survey (n=654).

The present study works with a dataset of participants from Carhart-Harris and colleagues in 2016, the participants who got psilocybin had treatment-resistant depression (TRD). One may assume that the participants (n=7) were the ones who were asked to fill in these specific questionnaires (from the n=12 in the other study).

If one looks at the results of the study, two things ask for your attention. The first is that the scores on both measures didn’t change all that much (the ‘power’ was not as large, although it was significantly changed). And second, the TRD participants significantly improved in their depression scores, and their scores on the two other measures are now very similar to the control group. Or in other words, they came from low nature-relatedness and high authoritarianism to being very close to what the control group had.

So one wonders if the same level of effects can be found with ‘healthy normal’ participants, or that psychedelics bring someone closer to what is normal/healthy. The paper does cite other surveys where people do indicate that nature-relatedness (and other mental health outcomes) are improved after a psychedelic experience.

The authors do note as much in the final discussion and more (double-blind) study needs to be done to see why and for whom nature-relatedness and political views are changed.

Study details

Compounds studied

Topics studied
Depression Treatment-Resistant Depression Personality

Study characteristics


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