The Associations of Naturalistic Classic Psychedelic Use, Mystical Experience, and Creative Problem Solving

This study (n=68) found that having a mystical experience during psychedelic use is correlated with quicker completion times on a measure of creativity (completion time of Duncker’s Candle Problem). The number of mystical experiences was not correlated with completion time.


Developing methods for improving creativity is of broad interest. Classic psychedelics may enhance creativity; however, the underlying mechanisms of action are unknown. This study was designed to assess whether a relationship exists between naturalistic classic psychedelic use and heightened creative problem-solving ability and if so, whether this is mediated by lifetime mystical experience. Participants (N = 68) completed a survey battery assessing lifetime mystical experience and circumstances surrounding the most memorable experience. They were then administered a functional fixedness task in which faster completion times indicate greater creative problem-solving ability. Participants reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience (n = 11) exhibited significantly faster times on the functional fixedness task (Cohen’s d = –.87; large effect) and significantly greater lifetime mystical experience (Cohen’s d = .93; large effect) than participants not reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience. However, lifetime mystical experience was unrelated to completion times on the functional fixedness task (standardized β = –.06), and was therefore not a significant mediator. Classic psychedelic use may increase creativity independent of its effects on mystical experience. Maximizing the likelihood of mystical experience may need not be a goal of psychedelic interventions designed to boost creativity.

Authors: Noah W. Sweat, Larry W. Bates & Peter S. Hendricks


It’s interesting to see how the Duncker’s candle problem relates to other measures of creativity. At a glance it seems to be an aspect of divergent creativity (thinking outside the box).

Lifetime mystical experience (how many experiences one had in total) didn’t correlate with the completion time. It’s counter to what was expected, but with a small sample (n=11) of people who even had mystical experiences (so 16% of the sample), it might not be unexpected.

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