The claim is of course widely known: LSD "broadens your thinking" and makes you "more creative".

The last incarnation was Steve Jobs' biography taking a swipe at Bill Gates:

“He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger”.

The most famous example ever being cited is probably DNA double-helix structure discovery.

However, none of those examples seem to me to be a reliable proof (e.g. correlation at best and random coincidence at worst).

Was there any study ever done that actually proved that LSD had measurably beneficial effect on any mental activity/creativity? (specific definition of creativity left blank since I would rather not exclude some useful study simply because my unimaginative non-LSD-fueled brain didn't think of that precise effect).

P.S. Am I the only one who would LOVE to see this one covered by Mythbusters? :)

  • 1
    As I said in the other comment to your question, I think the invention of PCR by Mullis is a way more commonly known example, and he himself confirms he was "high" (while Crick does not). Also, note that Crick did not discover DNA, he managed to succesfully analyze the results of DNA X-ray diffraction to deduce its structure.
    – nico
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 10:33
  • @nico - good point. Edited Crick's detail. I didn't hear about PCR and LSD link before.
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 12:24
  • If creativity is enhanced but the ability to be productive with that creativity is destroyed does it really matter if that creativity is greater?
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 13:31
  • @Chad - valid point but irrelevant to the Q. I just want to know whether the mind-expanding claims are something tangible or a drug-induced delusion coupled with coincidence.
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 14:17
  • 2
    I have anecdotally known a few people who enjoyed their acid trips. And while they definately had some out their ideas, I would never trust them to do anything with it or take their ideas seriously. They could have some revolutionary idea but when you mix it in with their conviction that brainwaves can heat cocoa and traveling backwards up the stairs will invite the undead to enter your home... well a theory of relativity is probably lumped right in there.
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


Harman WW, McKim RH, Mogar RE, Fadiman J, Stolaroff MJ. “Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving: A pilot study”. Psychological Reports. 1966 Aug;19(1):211-2.

Abstract Based on the frequently reported similarities between creative and psychedelic (drug-induced, consciousness-expansion) experiences, a preliminary study was conducted to explore the effects of psychedelic agents (LSD-25, mescaline) on creative problem-solving ability. Twenty-seven professionally employed males were given a single psychedelic experience in 1 of 7 small groups (ns = 3 or 4) following extensive selection and preparatory procedures. This drug-induced problem-solving session was carefully structured with particular focus on establishing Ss expectancies and a psychological milieu conducive to creative activity. Tentative findings based on tests of creativity, on subjective reports and self ratings, and on the utility of problem solutions suggested that, if given according to this carefully structured regimen, psychedelic agents seem to facilitate creative problem-solving, particularly in the "illumination phase." The results also suggest that various degrees of increased creative ability may continue for at least some weeks subsequent to a psychedelic problem-solving session.

  • 2
    Way out! Where can I score some acid, dude?
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 14:48
  • magic truffles are still legal :D
    – mcr
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 15:23
  • 1
    If this was a successful pilot study, what did the full study conclude?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 21:51
  • 6
    unfortunately it coincided with the scheduling of psychedelic substances & as such the experiments were halted, fadiman recalls it here... youtube.com/watch?v=lJ01Z5H6SeA
    – mcr
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 10:55
  • 8
    This said its a very badly designed study. Psychedelics increase your mood and ability to solve creative puzzles has high correlation with good mood. A better study would give a control group a drug that increases mood as much as psychedelic in question and then see if the results are still improved. Not to mention the sample size is just pathetic.
    – Xitcod13
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 6:40

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