The Meaning-Enhancing Properties of Psychedelics and Their Mediator Role in Psychedelic Therapy, Spirituality, and Creativity

This perspective article (2018) looks at the evidence for meaning-enhancing as a mediator in psychedelic therapy, spirituality and outcomes on creativity.


“Past research has demonstrated to the ability of psychedelics to enhance suggestibility, and pointed to their ability to amplify perception of meaning. This paper examines the existing evidence for the meaning-enhancing properties of psychedelics, and argues that the tendency of these agents to enhance the perception of significance offers valuable clues to explaining their reported ability to stimulate a variety of therapeutic processes, enhance creativity, and instigate mystical-type experiences. Building upon previous research, which suggested the potential role of psychedelic meaning-enhancement in enhancing placebo response, the paper explores the mechanisms by which the meaning-amplifying properties of psychedelics might also play a role in enhancing creativity, as well as in effecting mystical-type experiences. The wider social and public-health implications of this hypothesis are discussed, and suggestions are made as to the various ways in which scientific understanding of the meaning-enhancing properties of psychedelics might be advanced and utilized.”

Author: Ido Hartogsohn


“Remarkably, one of the most striking qualities of psychedelics, which was noted on by both 1960s as well as by contemporary psychedelic researchers, is their ability to induce experiences which people regard as extremely meaningful. Between two thirds to 86% of those who have psychedelic experiences in a supportive therapeutic setting consider them to be either one of the five most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives, or the single most meaningful experience”

This is a comment about the meaningfulness of the psychedelic experience, but it must be noted that in at least Griffiths et al (2006), the subjects were quite spiritually inclined.

On creativity:

“Here as well, meaning enhancement might play a key role. By magnifying the perceived significance of creative challenges and insights psychedelics provide users with the impetus to pursue new, less obvious lines of ideation that they might otherwise have ignored; and with enhanced motivation to explore new creative directions to their fullest ramifications. “

“By imbuing possible solutions with a magnified sense of meaning and plausibility, psychedelics might assist in reducing inhibitions, self-criticism, and kindle greater concentration and enthusiasm for creative exploration. Crucially, here as well, psychedelics might also enhance the perceived significance of such creative breakthroughs. As with spiritual experiences, this is not to say that creative-breakthroughs with psychedelics are invalid, but that one should be aware of the tendency to overstate the importance of such breakthroughs, particularly during, or shortly after psychedelic experience.”

My personal interpretation would be that the weighting of priors (top-down) is lowered, which then ‘blocks’ your ability to rightly judge which ideas are ‘good’ and thus allows you to come up with/dismiss fewer ideas before you’ve worked on them for a while.

Note: the paper doesn’t define or break creativity down into sub-components.

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