Updating the dynamic framework of thought: Creativity and psychedelics

The theory-building paper (2020) argues that the psychedelic state may facilitate creative generation and discusses the neurocognitive states in which creative thought takes place.


“Contemporary investigations regard creativity as a dynamic form of cognition that involves movement between the dissociable stages of creative generation and creative evaluation. Our recently proposed Dynamic Framework of Thought (Christoff et al., 2016) offered a conceptualization of these stages in terms of an interplay between sources of constraint and variability on thought. This initial conceptualization, however, has yet to be fully explicated and given targeted discussion. Here, we refine this framework’s account of creativity by highlighting the dynamic nature of creative thought, both within and between the stages of creative generation and evaluation. In particular, we emphasize that creative generation in particular is best regarded as a product of multiple, varying mental states, rather than being a singular mental state in and of itself. We also propose that the psychedelic state is a mental state with high potential for facilitating creative generation and update the Dynamic Framework of Thought to incorporate this state. This paper seeks to highlight the dynamic nature of the neurocognitive processes underlying creative thinking and to draw attention to the potential utility of psychedelic substances as experimental tools in the neuroscience of creativity.”

Authors: Manesh Girn, Caitlin Mills, Leor Roseman, Robin L. Carhart-Harris, Kalina Christoff


Creativity calls for divergent and convergent thinking, here put as generation and evaluation.

“… the process of arriving at a creative product requires shifting between the neurocognitively dissociable modes of creative generation and evaluation.”

On simulated annealing as the process by which creativity happens.

“That is, assuming multiple cycles of idea generation and evaluation in the creative process, it may be the case that initial iterations of generation have relatively low/broad constraints, which are progressively increased/focused in successive iterations.”

The authors also link back to the infamous REBUS paper (Carhart-Harris & Friston, 2019).

“Thus, psychedelics might facilitate the exploration of a broader search space during creative generation, which in turn leads to greater potential of discovering highly novel ideas”

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