Psychedelic Agents in Creative Problem-Solving: A Pilot Study

This is the first known study (1966, n=27) in which creativity under influence of psychedelics (mescaline, 200mg) was being studied in professionals and within a very positive/guiding setting.

Abstract of Psychedelic Agents in Creative Problem-Solving

“Based on the frequently reported similarities between creative and psychedelic (drug-induced, consciousness-expansion) experiences, a preliminary study was conducted to explore the effects of psychedelic agents (LSD-25, mescaline) on creative problem-solving ability. Twenty-seven professionally employed males were given a single psychedelic experience in 1 of 7 small groups (ns = 3 or 4) following extensive selection and preparatory procedures. This drug-induced problem-solving session was carefully structured with particular focus on establishing Ss’ expectancies and a psychosocial milieu conducive to creative activity. Tentative findings based on tests of creativity, on subjective reports and self ratings, and on the utility of problem solutions suggested that, if given according to this carefully structured regimen, psychedelic agents seem to facilitate creative problem-solving, particularly in the “illumination phase.” The results also suggest that various degrees of increased creative ability may continue for at least some weeks subsequent to a psychedelic problem-solving session.”

Authors: Willis W. Harman, Robert H. McKim, Robert E. Mogar, James Fadiman & Myron J. Stolaroff

See more on this study in Chapter 9 of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by Fadiman.

The study used 200mg mescaline, which they equate to 100ug LSD (a moderately high dosage).

Krippner’s 1985 reviews mentions that in this study the participants were given methylphenidate (Ritalin) twice (at the start and in the afternoon), but this isn’t mentioned in the paper. (footnote 7 does encourage others to ask for the exact procedures, but still, it seems weird to not mention it)

What they do identify is the following that may now be seen as set and setting and a hint at the diverse effects of psychedelics “There are no specific psychological reactions to these drugs; there are, rather, various reactions depending upon such variables as expectancies of S[ubjects] and E[xperiment], S’s degree of trust, the over-all setting, S’s personality characteristics, etc.”

Summary of Psychedelic Agents in Creative Problem-Solving

In recent years, psychedelic drugs such as LSD-25, mescaline, and psilocybin have been used in the treatment of a variery of emotional disorders. Researchers have noted similarities between the drug-induced state and certain phases of the creative process.

Rogers’ conditions for fostering creativity (1957) suggests that psychedelic agents can enhance creativity temporarily in the presence of ideal external conditions, and long-term changes can occur if ideal external conditions are permanently altered.

Psychedelic drugs may enhance creativity by increasing spontaneity of emotional expression, reducing depression and anxiety, increasing openness to experience, increasing aesthetic appreciation, and increasing sense of meaning and purpose in life.

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Psychedelic Agents in Creative Problem-Solving: A Pilot Study

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Cite this paper (APA)

Harman, W. W., McKim, R. H., Mogar, R. E., Fadiman, J., & Stolaroff, M. J. (1966). Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving: A pilot study. Psychological reports19(1), 211-227.

Study details

Compounds studied

Topics studied

Study characteristics
Open-Label Interviews

27 Humans