The Impact of Phenomenological Control on Altered States, Mystical Experience, Mood and Persisting Effects
Altered states of consciousness can induce profound subjective experiences, have positive outcomes for mood and cognition and have long-term persisting effects. However, so far there is little research on individual difference characteristics that might influence the ways that people experience altered states. A new measure, the phenomenological control scale, quantifies the capacity of individuals’ beliefs to subtly shape their perceptual experience. As altered states appear to have potential for positive clinical outcomes and cognitive enhancement, understanding trait factors that may enhance these outcomes will be beneficial. This project examined phenomenological control and altered states across two studies. First, phenomenological control was examined as a moderator of mystical experiences and persisting effects in a large online study investigating multiple forms of altered states of consciousness (spiritual experience, connection to nature, psychoactive drugs and meditation). Second, I investigated the impact of phenomenological control on acute measures of mood and altered state experience in a double-blind laboratory study exploring the effects of low doses of psilocybin. Results across these studies highlight the importance of phenomenological control in determining the quality of altered states that individuals experience across a range of contexts.