A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology aims to address historical issues in examining the effects LSD has on creativity. Researchers Isabel Weißner et al considered previous studies to lack rigorous methodology in the measurement of creativity, prompting them to design a more uniform conceptualisation of creativity to ensure higher accuracy in the results.
Researchers wished to improve on evaluations of creativity similar to that used in a study from the late 1950s which tasked participants with painting a Kachina doll prior to and one hour after being administered LSD. The painted dolls were examined by a professor of art history who critically appraised the effect that LSD had on artistic creativity by comparing the differences in the two dolls produced by each participant.
In the recent study, 24 healthy participants took part in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study where they received either a placebo or 50µg of LSD. When researchers were confident the LSD was at the peak of its effect the participants were tasked with a ‘creative task battery’ where they had to complete various tasks including; a pattern meaning task (PMT), alternate uses task (AUT), picture concept task (PCT), creative metaphors task (MET) and a figural creativity task (FIG).
Scoring creativity criteria included: calculating divergent and convergent thinking, computing semantic distances, and data-driven special features were all used to assess creativity.
The results showed that LSD, compared to the placebo, changed a number of creativity measurements which led researchers to believe that LSD-induced three overall phenomena;
- ‘Pattern break’ was reflected in participants by an increase in novelty, surprise and semantic distances;
- Decreased ‘organisation’ which was displayed by decreased utility, convergent thinking and marginal elaboration;
- ‘Meaning’ was shown by an increase in symbolic thinking and ambiguity in the data-driven results.
Researchers concluded that the three LSD-induced phenomena they recorded; pattern break, disorganisation and meaning “seemed to fundamentally influence creative cognition and behaviour pointing to a shift of cognitive resources ‘away from normal’ and ‘towards the new’”.
They continued their conclusion by stating that “LSD-induced symbolic thinking might provide a tool to support treatment efficiency in psychedelic-assisted therapy”.