This double-blind placebo-controlled study (n=24) assessed the impact LSD (50μg) has on measures of creativity. Near peak drug effects, participants were given a number of creative tasks to complete. Creativity was then assessed by scoring creativity criteria, calculating divergent thinking and convergent thinking, computing semantic distances and searching for data-driven special features. Compared to placebo, LSD changed several creativity measurements pointing to pattern break, disorganization and meaning which seemed to fundamentally influence creative cognition and behaviour.
“Background: Controversy surrounds psychedelics and their potential to boost creativity. To date, psychedelic studies lack a uniform conceptualization of creativity and methodologically rigorous designs.
Aims: This study aimed at addressing previous issues by examining the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on creativity using multimodal tasks and multidimensional approaches.
Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 24 healthy volunteers received 50 μg of LSD or an inactive placebo. Near drug peak, a creativity task battery was applied, including pattern meaning task (PMT), alternate uses task (AUT), picture concept task (PCT), creative metaphors task (MET) and figural creativity task (FIG). Creativity was assessed by scoring creativity criteria (novelty, utility, surprise), calculating divergent thinking (fluency, originality, flexibility, elaboration) and convergent thinking, computing semantic distances (semantic spread, semantic steps) and searching for data-driven special features.
Results: LSD, compared to placebo, changed several creativity measurements pointing to three overall LSD-induced phenomena: (1) ‘pattern break’, reflected by increased novelty, surprise, originality and semantic distances; (2) decreased ‘organization’, reflected by decreased utility, convergent thinking and, marginally, elaboration; and (3) ‘meaning’, reflected by increased symbolic thinking and ambiguity in the data-driven results.
Conclusion: LSD changed creativity across modalities and measurement approaches. Three phenomena of pattern break, disorganization and meaning seemed to fundamentally influence creative cognition and behaviour pointing to a shift of cognitive resources ‘away from normal’ and ‘towards the new’. LSD-induced symbolic thinking might provide a tool to support treatment efficiency in psychedelic-assisted therapy.”
Authors: Isabel Weißner, Marcelo Falchi, Lucas O. Maia, Dimitri Daldegan-Bueno, Fernanda Palhano-Fontes, Natasha L. Mason, Johannes G. Ramaekers, Madeleine E. Gross, Johnathan W. Schooler, Amanda Feilding, Sidarta Ribeiro, Draulio B. Araujo & Luis F. Tófoli
Creativity and psychedelics have long been intertwined. From psychedelic art to psychedelic rock, these substances are believed to possess the inherent ability to inspire creativity once consumed. With The Beatles, Star Wars creator George Lucas and even Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs believed to have experimented with LSD, one must wonder could their creative success be linked to the use of psychedelics. The exact link between creativity and the use of psychedelics remains speculative at best and researchers are continuing to explore this avenue of psychedelic science.
The present paper used multimodal tasks and multidimensional approaches to assess the effects LSD has on creativity. Participants (n=24) were randomized and given either LSD (50 μg, low-medium dose) or an inactive placebo in a double-blind fashion. Near peak-drug experience, participants were given a range of tests including pattern meaning task (PMT), alternate uses task (AUT), picture concept task (PCT), creative metaphors task (MET) and figural creativity task (FIG). Creativity was then measured by scoring creativity criteria and calculating divergent/convergent thinking. The researchers break down their findings on a number of different levels.
The main findings:
- LSD, compared to placebo, changed creativity on several levels and seemed to elicit two opposing phenomena of ‘pattern break’, reflected by increased novelty (PMT), surprise (PMT), originality (FIG) and semantic distances (PMT), and decreased ‘organization’, reflected by decreased utility (PMT), convergent thinking (PCT) and, marginally but consistently across tasks.
- On a phenomenological level, LSD increased novelty and surprise and decreased utility of responses, indicating that responses were more remote and nonobvious but also ‘chaotic’ and less useful, while there was no change in the amount of highly creative responses.
- On a cognitive level, LSD increased title originality (FIG), while other originality parameters did not survive correction for multiple testing or remained unchanged.
- On a semantic level, LSD increased PMT semantic spread and semantic steps indicating a random semantic spread of ideas.
- On a behavioural level, metaphor and drawing content under LSD exhibited tendentially fewer objects, pointing to a weak but cross-modal phenomenon.
- On an ontological level, symbolic thinking and ambiguity emerged as the most noticeable data-driven features. LSD increased metaphor and drawing ambiguity pointing to a crossmodal feature.
The present study sought to assess how psychedelics, in this case, LSD, alter creativity across a number of levels. LSD changed several creativity measurements pointing to pattern break, disorganization and meaning which seemed to fundamentally influence creative cognition and behaviour. Ultimately, the author’s findings suggest that “psychedelics may not merely disrupt cognitive-behavioural processes ‘away from normal’, but relocate them ‘towards the new’.“
Creativity promotes the prosperity of societies, and numerous studies have attempted to promote creativity in individuals. However, early attempts to capture these effects were fraught with methodological shortcomings.
Psychedelics have a potential to boost creativity.
This study aimed at examining the effects of LSD on creativity.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 24 healthy volunteers received 50 g of LSD or inactive placebo. They performed a battery of creativity tasks to measure their creativity.
LSD induces three overall creativity phenomena.
LSD changed creativity across modalities and measurement approaches, influencing three phenomena: pattern break, disorganization and meaning. This might provide a tool to support treatment efficiency in psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Low mescaline doses are reported to facilitate problem-solving in engineering, mathematics, architecture, and the creative process among artists. A comprehensive long-term study examined the effects of repeated lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) administration on 60 artists over 7 years. The study found that psychedelics alter several creative domains, including expressionism, sharpening of colour, mental freedom, syntactical organization and accessibility of past impressions. Cognitive-oriented approaches focused on divergent and convergent thinking and yielded inconclusive results. Some studies reported increased fluency and originality, while others reported decreased fluency, originality and convergent thinking.
This study aimed at systematically mapping the effects of a relatively low dose of LSD on creativity using a multi-modal task battery and several different evaluation approaches, including a theory-driven approach scoring the creativity criteria ‘novelty’, ‘utility’ and ‘surprise’ and a data-driven approach searching for special features.
Twenty-five healthy participants were recruited in a convenience sample. They provided written informed consent before participation, and were free from psychiatric symptoms, heart disease, smoking, caffeine, and other relevant medical conditions.
A day of LSD or placebo administration was conducted in this study, which was approved by the National Health Surveillance Agency and Research Ethics Committee of the University of Campinas.
We assessed diverse variable groups across all tasks using theory-driven, established, semantic, and data-driven approaches. Interrater reliability ranged from moderate to excellent with few exceptions.
Responses were rated on novelty, utility and surprise based on the general socio-cultural context.
Originality was assessed by grouping responses into categories. In PMT, AUT and PCT, responses with more than 5% of all responses received zero points, and those with less than 1% received one point.
Flexibility, elaboration and originality were assessed by calculating the ratios to fluency, and elaboration was assessed by rating FIG picture elaboration and colour elaboration.
Semantic structure was calculated based on a Portuguese Wikipedia corpus. Two distance indices were calculated: Semantic spread and Semantic steps.
We applied a qualitative content analysis-inspired approach to code the data and created four main categories and subcategories.
The amount of symbolic thinking was assessed by the number of symbolic or abstract responses, the content subcategory symbols, and the colour abstractness.
Statistical analyses were conducted by IBM SPSS Statistics (version 22). Results showed that LSD (treatment) induced changes in creativity, divergent thinking, semantic structure, special feature categories were significant.
LSD increased novelty, relative novelty and relative surprise in PMT and AUT, but decreased utility and relative utility in PMT and AUT. In PCT, there were period effects for relative novelty and relative surprise, but no other effects were observed.
LSD increased title originality in FIG, decreased relative flexibility in MET, increased elaboration in PMT, AUT and FIG, and increased relative elaboration in MET, but these effects did not survive correction for multiple testing.
LSD increased sensation, decreased objects, increased exaggeration, increased frame break, increased ambiguity, increased symbolic thinking, and increased relative symbolic thinking in MET, AUT, and FIG, but these effects did not survive correction for multiple testing.
There was a period effect for ambiguity in MET, with lower means in session 2. Two period effects and two order effects did not survive correction for multiple testing.
There was a positive correlation between novelty and surprise, but a negative correlation between novelty and utility. Surprise correlated positively with symbolic thinking, and ambiguity correlated positively with symbolic thinking.
A relatively low dose of LSD changed creativity on several levels and seemed to elicit two opposing phenomena of ‘pattern break’ and ‘organization’. These effects correlated positively with each other and negatively with semantic distances and utility and positively and negatively with elaboration.
Creativity criteria – LSD increases novelty and surprise and decreases utility
LSD increased novelty and surprise, decreased utility of responses, and decreased the amount of highly creative responses, indicating that LSD increases creativity but impairs further sophisticated processes.
Effects were pronounced in PMT and AUT, possibly due to stronger drug effects during these tasks and the medium task difficulty. However, novelty and utility ratings yielded partially poor interrater reliability.
Divergent and convergent thinking – LSD decreases convergent thinking and elaboration
LSD increased title originality, decreased convergent thinking, and decreased elaboration, but not fluency, in a cognitive level study. This is in line with previous findings that psychedelics increase specific originality aspects, especially under lower doses.
The results might point towards impaired cognitive control, including selective (convergent thinking) and sustained (elaboration) attention and executive functions, under psychedelics.
Semantic structure – LSD increases semantic spread and semantic steps
LSD increased semantic spread and semantic steps in the PMT but not in the free word association task, suggesting that abstract, more than concrete, input stimulates the generation of semantically distinct thinking under LSD.
Special features – LSD affects content and technique in metaphors and drawings
Metaphors and drawing content under LSD exhibited tendentially fewer objects, pointing to a weak but cross-modal phenomenon. Metaphors demonstrated tendentially more sensation, potentially related to the LSD-induced intensification and synaesthesia of senses.
LSD-induced metaphors showed more contrast and less exaggeration, and ambiguity and symbolic thinking were positively correlated with contrast. Drawings showed unchanged colour quantity but increased colour abstractness.
Special features – LSD increases symbolic thinking and ambiguity
LSD increased metaphor and drawing ambiguity, pointing to a cross-modal feature, and metaphor ambiguity correlated negatively with semantic steps, suggesting that verbal ambiguity reflects condensed or reduced information, in line with findings of LSD-induced condensation of speech and the notion of reduced cognitive control.
LSD increased symbolic thinking across modalities and tasks, and was best induced by abstract patterns and imagined objects. This suggests that abstract stimuli and drawing tasks might constitute intriguing techniques to stimulate symbolic thinking to express and process problems on personally meaningful level.
The correlations between symbolic thinking and other processes reveal insights into how symbolic thinking and ambiguity are related to psychedelic-induced symbolization, mystical experiences, creativity, psychotic-like and therapeutic effects.
To provide a more comprehensive picture of the effects of psychedelics on creativity, a variety of variables were assessed using diverse methods. The results should be interpreted with caution, as several variables may have been introduced incorrectly, and the psychometric qualities need to be explored in future studies.
This study aimed at elucidating the psychedelic effects on creativity by diverse tasks and approaches. The results suggest that psychedelics may not merely disrupt cognitive-behavioural processes ‘away from normal’, but relocate them ‘towards the new’.
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