Psychedelic users have long reported experiencing profound shifts in how they perceive consciousness following a psychedelic experience. Many report experiencing the world around them come alive as they experience consciousness expressed through unordinary sources like nature and objects.
A recent survey study conducted at the John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and the Neuroscience Department of John Hopkins School of Medicine further explored this phenomenon. The study explored the question of whether psychedelics change the attribution of consciousness to a range of living and non-living entities.
The researchers surveyed 1606 individuals who reported a belief-changing psychedelic experience. The participants were asked to rate their attributions of consciousness to a range of living and non-living entities before and after their psychedelic experience. The results demonstrated that following a psychedelic dose, the participants reported large increases in the attribution of consciousness to various entities including non-human primates (63–83%), quadrupeds (59–79%), insects (33–57%), fungi (21–56%), plants (26–61%), inanimate natural objects (8–26%), and inanimate manmade objects (3–15%). There was a direct correlation between the mystical experience rating - measured by the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ) - and an increase in the attribution of consciousness.
The results also showed that the increased attributions of consciousness did not decrease in survey respondents even several years after the psychedelic experience; with many reporting their first such experience over 8 years ago. The researchers also accounted for superstitious beliefs - measured by the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale - and freewill and found that the increase in the attribution of consciousness was not correlated with a change in ratings of superstition or freewill.
The consistent and lasting effects of a single psychedelic experience on the perception of consciousness can have a significant impact on the individual's perception of self and the world. In fact, 68% of the participants rated the experience as being among the five most personally meaningful and psychologically insightful experiences of their lives (see table below).
This study demonstrates the impactful nature of a single psychedelic experience on significant life-changing shifts in insights and perception. Further research in this space will help us better understand both the nature of consciousness and how psychedelic medicines can potentially support rapid and lasting positive changes in perception.