Do sub-perceptual doses of psilocybin found in psychedelic mushrooms enhance creative thinking? We explore the emerging science and research that could link microdosing psychedelics to improved creativity.
Throughout history, psychedelics have always catalyzed creativity – whether it’s ayahuasca art, traditional songs of indigenous shamans, or the sounds of psychedelic funk. When the convergence of creativity and psychedelics peaked during the 60s/70s counterculture wave, musicians, artists, and poets praised altered states of consciousness for unearthing creative instincts and insights. Famously, Jimi Hendrix, Yayoi Kusama, Allen Ginsberg, and Annais Nin drew direct inspiration from psychedelics. But does microdosing have the same effects? Here we review the emerging science and venture to answer the question: can microdosing enhance creativity?
The impact of psychedelics on creativity is clear; LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca trips often feature wild, wondrous hallucinations. They show us dreams and demons. They make music visceral and make us more connected to the earth and ourselves – all experiences that inspire creativity.
A recent study found that just one dose of psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms) increased spontaneous creative thinking during cognitive tasks. The study’s participants became more insightful and generated more new ideas, even a week after the initial dose.
But what about when we take psychedelics at lower doses? Do we have to dose ourselves into another realm, “go to hell for an eternity” as Megan Fox did, or become part of a Van Gogh painting like Paul Scheer to reap the creative spoils of psychedelics?
That’s what scientists are trying to determine
Today, the entheogenic resurgence is well underway. Like a drop of lysergic acid diethylamide on a piece of paper, the microdosing trend is spreading. Silicon Valley tech minds, mothers, athletes, and more now take microdoses of psychedelics to facilitate creativity, focus, and productivity.
And there’s evidence to support their claims.
Studies of microdoses show that both active and retired microdosers exhibit greater creativity, open-mindedness, and wisdom than their non-micro-dosing counterparts. In an analysis of 278 microdosers, enhanced creativity was reported by ~13% of participants as the third most commonly reported benefit, coming right behind improved mood and focus.
As of 2022, only one study has directly explored the potential link between microdosing and creativity. Published in Psychopharmacology in 2018, scientists investigated how psilocybin-containing truffles affected the performance of 36 participants during a range of tasks. After the microdose, researchers observed more out-of-the-box thinking, more original problem-solving ideas, and increased fluency and flexibility in participants’ creative thoughts.
Studies show Microdosers exhibit greater creativity and enhanced problem-solving driven by increases in divergent thinking
The results showed that the microdose didn’t change intelligence. But both divergent and convergent thinking improved.
Learn to microdose with our free guide.
Regarding how humans solve problems, there are two types of conscious creativity responsible: convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is our ability to develop a single effective solution to a problem. (If you’ve ever had a multiple choice or spelling test in front of you, you’ve recruited your convergent thinking muscle). Meanwhile, divergent thinking represents our ability to produce various solutions to a problem that could result in multiple outcomes.
Where most could probably complete a spelling test without expending too much energy, divergent thinking takes up a lot of energy. Divergent thinking requires multiple skills and experiences to arrive at out-of-the-box solutions. It is a less efficient problem-solving route—but it can be more creatively rewarding. It’s also the type of thinking you’re most likely to employ under the influence of psychedelic medicine – researchers hypothesize that when the DMN (default mode network) is temporarily inhibited temporarily under the effects of psilocybin, the brain can make connections in a free-flowing state to generate more outlandish and out-of-the-box ideas.
To understand if microdosing enhances creativity, we have to first venture into the nebulous inquiry: what is creativity? The concept, after all, can be pretty abstract. Creativity is a multidimensional phenomenon that many recognize as the ability to generate ideas, solutions, or creations that are novel. Creativity can encompass many parts of the brain and recruits our senses, experiences, and beliefs.
It’s pretty tricky to quantify creativity in numbers. How often do we wake up and think I’m feeling 87% more creative today? Still, many microdosers sing praises and claim that microdosing improves creativity. Though the research is still in its infancy, we can begin to understand how microdosing could impact creativity when we consider the following possible effects of microdosing:
Some believe that a quiet mind is a key to unlocking creativity. When our anxious thoughts are on the main stage, our creative mind is pushed to the back. As endless anecdotal reports suggest, microdosing can greatly help those struggling with stress and anxiety. And since stress is a sinister creativity-killer, microdosing could help to quiet stress and encourage creativity.
As we discussed above, creativity is hard to measure – but stress isn’t. Research has demonstrated that microdoses of the psychedelic DMT can alleviate anxiety in animal models. If similar effects are studied and found in humans, then microdosing psychedelics may promote a state of mental clarity that could help humans tap into a bottomless reservoir of creativity.
The reflective and unifying nature of psychedelics can help us magnify our creative minds, opening the floodgates of divergent thinking and unique ideas.
However, the research field of microdosing is still in its infancy, and the amount of science validating microdosing’s influence on creativity is very slim. That’s because most psychedelic research has focused on the effects of macro-doses, and additional research needs to be done. The current studies are open-labeled with no control group, thus exploratory in nature. Double-blinded tests are needed to prove and analyze how microdosing may improve creativity scientifically. However, the results of the studies we do have, boosted by all the glowing anecdotal evidence, invite curiosity. Until then, trust your intuition and always do research before microdosing to enhance your creativity.
New to the microdosing game? Let our Microdosing 101 Guide be your roadmap.
Learn to microdose with our free guide.
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