Isness: Using Multi-Person VR to Design Peak Mystical Type Experiences Comparable to Psychedelics

This study (n=57) assessed the experiences of people undergoing a Virtual Reality (VR) journey using the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30). ‘Isness’ is a VR experience developed using concepts, methods and analysis strategies from psychedelic research. It was found that Isness participants reported Mystical Type Experiences comparable to those reported in double-blind clinical studies after high doses of psilocybin and LSD.

Abstract

“Studies combining psychotherapy with psychedelic drugs (Ds) have demonstrated positive outcomes that are often associated with ‘Ds’ ability to induce ‘mystical-type’ experiences (MTEs) i.e., subjective experiences whose characteristics include a sense of connectedness, transcendence, and ineffability. We suggest that both PsiDs and virtual reality can be situated on a broader spectrum of psychedelic technologies. To test this hypothesis, we used concepts, methods, and analysis strategies from D research to design and evaluate ‘Isness’, a multi-person VR journey where participants experience the collective emergence, fluctuation, and dissipation of their bodies as energetic essences. A study (N=57) analyzing participant responses to a commonly used D experience questionnaire (MEQ30) indicates that Isness participants reported MTEs comparable to those reported in double-blind clinical studies after high doses of psilocybin and LSD. Within a supportive setting and conceptual framework, VR phenomenology can create the conditions for MTEs from which participants derive insight and meaning.”

Authors: David R. Glowacki, Mark D. Wonnacott, Rachel Freire, Becca R. Glowacki, Ella M. Gale, James E. Pike, Tiu de Haan, Mike Chatziapostolou & Oussama Metatla

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Study details

Topics studied
Technology

Study characteristics
Observational

Participants
57 Humans

Linked Research Papers

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Group VR experiences can produce ego attenuation and connectedness comparable to psychedelics
This paper (2022) introduces "Isness-distributed" (Isness-D), a VR framework which harnesses the unique affordances of distributed multi-person VR to blur conventional self-other boundaries. To evaluate Isness-D,  the results of 4 different self-report scales previously applied to analyze subjective psychedelic drug phenomenology were analysed. Across all four scales, the Isness-D scores were statistically indistinguishable from recently published studies with psychedelic drugs highlighting the power of VR to develop self-transcendent experiences.

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