There seems to be a connection between psychedelics and creativity if we have to believe the growing number of world-famous scientists, artists, and business leaders who claim the profound influence of psychedelics on their work. This list includes Steve Jobs, Aldous Huxley, Susan Sarandon, Dr Andrew Weil, and The Beatles. It’s almost common that people frequently link the use of (macrodoses of) psychedelics to creativity. The same holds true for microdosing, but how are microdosing and creativity connected?
What is creativity?
Before we dive into the connection between microdosing and creativity, it’s interesting to consider what creativity is in the first place — a concept seems very abstract. Creativity is described as follows: “Creativity is a multilayered phenomenon, commonly defined as the ability to generate ideas, solutions, or products that are both novel and appropriate. Creativity is not a unitary function but consists of a number of subcomponents that provide different, to some degree opposing cognitive challenges.“123
In other words, creativity is an occurrence that has various layers or components that include coming up with new and innovative ideas, solutions, or products that are appropriate to a situation. We can see this definition nicely reflected in Dawid’s experience of microdosing and creativity. Dawid, a Microdosing Institute community member who uses microdosing to increase his creative process. He is a visual artist and student at Gerrit Rietveld School of Art & Design and works with 2D graphics, drawings, and graphics programs on the computer. Since he started attending the art academy, he microdoses with truffles or mushrooms ad hoc; whenever he feels like it.
“The most important thing in my practice is conceptual thinking. The idea comes first, and then I look for a medium to express it the best way possible. I believe microdosing helps me to be more connected — with the process and myself. I’m more into experimentation, which is a crucial element in my practice, as it requires new ways of approaching things we already know.
I think microdosing helps to step out of the comfort zone and stimulates my curiosity: what will happen if I press this or that, and so on. I have always been very philosophical, and I don’t feel like it has affected my mental abilities much. But I believe the joint venture of working with hands and brain is a much better setting for noticeable effects of microdosing for me.”
Artist: Dawid Dobosz
How can we measure creativity?
It seems practically impossible to quantify creativity in numbers. We don’t hear claims such as, “Today, I was 38% more creative than yesterday”. Still, various Microdosing Institute community members have made strong claims about how microdosing greatly enhanced their creativity. We can begin to explain this increase in creativity while microdosing when we look at the possible effects of microdosing listed:
- Improved concentration and focus, particularly in ADHD
- Staying in your creative flow longer
- Increased productivity
- Improved problem-solving capability
- More physical energy
- Less procrastination
- Improved mood
- Being more positive in life
- Being more aware in life
- Better ability to live in the moment
- Stronger sense of gratitude for life
- More openness
- Increased wonder
- Being more in touch with your spiritual intentions or life mission
- Sense of belonging to all that is there
- Sense of unity with the universe
This list, which can be found on our “why microdose” page included effects of microdosing that are very likely connected to creativity, like being able to stay in a creative flow longer. We can also see some effects that aren’t necessarily equal to “more creativity” but could support a creative process.
However, there are measurable concepts that are very often linked to creativity — one is divergent thinking. Joy Paul Guilford, an American Psychologist, coined the term, which is a way of thinking that generates creative ideas or a collection of various solutions to a loosely defined problem.4 For example; to make a list with all possible uses for a brick you need cognitive flexibility and free association to come up with answers such as building, throwing, as weight, as a weapon, etc.
Divergent thinking is often used together with the concept of convergent thinking, which is basically the opposite; a way of thinking that identifies a single solution to a well-defined problem.5 When a problem has only one appropriate solution, convergent thinking narrows your thoughts and focuses persistently on a problem to find that solution. For example, when trying to find the word that connects these three different concepts: man, bowl, and market, one needs to use convergent thinking to come up with the solution, super.
Divergent thinking, creativity, and microdosing
Divergent thinking links quite logically to creativity. It typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing way, so that many ideas sprout in as a result of cognitive process. When a person uses divergent thinking, various ideas are explored in a short amount of time, something as a result of making unexpected connections. This process is nicely demonstrated by Susana, a photographer and visual artist from Amsterdam. She is known for her splendid nature- and concert photography. She has been microdosing on and off for several years with dried Golden Teacher mushrooms.
“When microdosing, I notice a lot of differences in my energy level, motivation and focus, but most importantly, I really feel it brings more color to my life. I think more creatively and easily make connections. This leads me to experiment more, in different areas of my life. For instance, when I was doing music photography, I would be more open to different techniques, do double exposures, and use the light differently. I just feel I have more ideas, more fluidity in my creative processes and don’t overthink things as much. I just go for it.”
Black Midi – Picture by Susana Martins
Convergent thinking, creativity, and microdosing
Convergent thinking is considered logical thinking and the first impression is that this would actually inhibit creativity. However, when we only have an divergent/associative way of thinking in our creative process, it can be counterproductive; going from one thought to the next, never arriving anywhere. Only when it’s contained by a definitive and relatable form does it have the potential to sprout a creative product. Convergent thinking helps us be persistent and definitive about the creative decisions we make. In other words: it helps make the creative process more concrete.
The following microdosing experience from Maartje demonstrates this process. Maartje writes articles for her psychedelic blog adifferentpointofview.nl. She only microdoses with LSD on special occasions such as social gathering or during a creative project. Microdosing helps her focus, be productive, and increases her ability to more freely associate. When writing it helps her make connections she otherwise wouldn’t.
“When microdosing, I quickly make associations with images, thought, and ideas. One thing transforms into another, ideas become more fluid, helping me make connections that I normally wouldn’t. Through that, the subjects I write about and the way I write about them, become much more colorful and experimental. The next step is to bundle all those ideas into one concept. I notice that microdosing can give me the sense of focus I need to make that happen.”
Research into microdosing and creativity
When looking at microdosing and creativity specifically, at the time of writing there are unfortunately very few scientific studies to date. In 2018, L. Prochazkova et al. published a study in the Psychopharmacology journal investigating the effects of microdosing on creativity. The study was conducted at a Psychedelic Society microdosing event with a group of thirty-eight volunteers. The Psychedelic Society provided microdoses of magic truffles, of which each participant took an intuitive microdose (0.5-1 gram) in a natural setting.
To test creative thinking, they were asked to perform several tasks. The Picture Concept task, which tests the ability to find an association between images, was used to measure convergent thinking. Divergent thinking was measured by doing the Alternative Uses Task in which they asked the participants to write down as many uses as possible for common household objects in a limited amount of time. The researchers took the number of responses into consideration, but also the number of different categories of the responses, how elaborately the volunteers described the solution, and the originality of their answers. Additionally, because convergent thinking is correlated to fluid intelligence, the ability to solve novel reasoning problems, they used the Raven’s Progressive Matrices tasks to measure any changes in that area. All tasks were performed before and after taking the microdose.
As expected, the researchers measured an increase in the ability to use divergent thinking while microdosing. The same was true for convergent thinking, as the number of correct responses was significantly higher after the microdose. The results of the fluid intelligence test remained the same before and after the microdose.
A new study into psilocybin and creativity
In April 2021, the scientific journal “Nature” published a study from Maastricht University, showing once again that psilocybin might enhance creative thinking. The subjects for this experiment were given 0.17 milligrams of psilocybin per kilogram of body weight. This is not a microdose, but still a lower than average dose. These findings support previous claims that psychedelics have the ability to reduce conventional, logical thinking and stimulate the emergence of new thoughts. This study seems to suggest that microdoses of psilocybin can reduce acute convergent thinking and increase spontaneous divergent thinking.
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The connection between microdosing and creativity
The numerous testimonies of microdosers and the positive effect of microdosing on their creativity gave us clear indications that a connection between microdosing and creativity exists. To understand that connection, we have defined creativity and deconstruct it into measurable concepts — divergent and convergent thinking. From the studies, we can shed some light on the link between microdosing and creativity, and see that microdosing does enhance divergent thinking and thus creativity, and convergent thinking which helps give shape to our creative outputs.
The field of microdosing is still in its infant years and the amount of science surrounding microdosing and creativity is very slim. The current studies are merely exploratory in nature, as they were open-labelled with no control group. To scientifically prove and understand the connection between microdosing and creativity, double-blinded tests are required. However, the results of the study combined with the numerous anecdotes urge for more research into the topic of microdosing and creativity and the other numerous benefits of microdosing. Until then, trust your intuition and experiment with the effects of microdosing on your creativity.
- Amabile 1996;
- Sternberg and Lubart 1999
- Wallas 1926
- Guilford, 1967