Insight Conference
11:30am - 12:00pm
Track 3: Albrecht-Kossel Lecture room (Charité)


Belief Changes Following a Single Psychedelic Experience : Results of a Survey Study

Psychedelics have been anecdotally associated with a variety of belief changes in several domains, but to date there has been little empirical work on this question.

This study surveyed n = 2117 people who indicated having had belief changes attributed to a single psychedelic experience. They were retrospectively asked to report on a range of beliefs prior to (e.g. a month) the experience, after (e.g. a month) the experience and now. A range of metaphysical and philosophical beliefs were queried including beliefs about mind-body dualism, reincarnation, various extraordinary human capacities and free will.

Using a significance cutoff of p < 1 *10-5 and at least a small effect size (≥ 0.2 standardized change score) large shifts in agreement with various beliefs occurred, including that the universe is conscious (33% before, 80% after), reincarnation (23% before, 50% after), communication with the dead (25% before, 42% after), and telepathy (30% before, 62% after). From timepoints before to after, mind-body dualism increased markedly with Cohen’s d 1.30 (95% CI [1.23, 1.36]). In all cases, the direction of reported belief change was towards dualistic/non-materialistic positions. Restricting the analysis to individuals reporting on their first psychedelic encounter or individuals whose experience happened recently (in the past year) did not substantially change these results.

Although interpretation is limited by a convenience sample of respondents indicating they had experienced some type of belief change after a psychedelic, this survey demonstrates large shifts in a range of metaphysical beliefs attributed to a single episode of psychedelic use. Further research is needed to characterize the nature and prevalence of belief changes associated with psychedelics, particularly as they gain more widespread use as therapeutics.