LSD and Creativity

This literature review (1989) looks at creativity and LSD. This is mostly done through the lens of artists who painted over 250 works.

Abstract

“The effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on creativity were examined in a unique experiment in the late 1950’s. In this project, artists were asked to draw and paint a Kachina doll both prior to and one hour after the ingestion of LSD. Evaluations of these artistic productions were analyzed by a professor of art history in order to investigate the impact of LSD on artistic creativity. Certain representative changes were found in the artists’ predominant style. The most significant change was noted in those artists whose styles were intrinsically representational or abstract to more expressionistic or nonobjective. Other changes noted included the following: relative size expansion; involution; movement; alteration of figure/ground and boundaries; greater intensity of color and light; oversimplification; symbolic and abstract depiction of objects; and fragmentation, disorganization, and distortion. Many artists judged their LSD productions to be more interesting and aesthetically superior to their usual mode of expression. The above-mentioned changes contributed to the artists’ convictions that they were fashioning new meanings to an emergent world.”

Authors: Oscar Janiger & Marlene Dobkin de Rios

Notes

The dosage used in the studies was 2.5ug/kg or about 175ug at 75kg (high dose).

There were over 2000 doses given to 848 participants.

The experiment(s) spanned 7 years and 250 works of art (drawings and paintings) were produced.

The style of the artists was changed and the authors note the differences observed.

Contrary to (popular) expectation, the artists were able to paint during intoxication (and improved over time).

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