Study Suggests Psychedelics May Encourage Connectedness, Reduce Narcissism

In a new study published in “Psychopharmacology,”, researchers argue that feelings of awe elicited from psychedelic drugs may influence narcissistic personality traits positively. The study discovered that psychedelic experiences that evoke feelings of awe were connected to increased feelings of empathy and connectedness, which are linked to reduced levels of exploitative-entitled narcissism.

Because prior research had demonstrated that psychedelic substances could improve mental well-being and intensify feelings of social connectedness, the researchers of this study chose to instead focus on finding out whether the effects from these substances had an impact on narcissism.

The study authors, Ruairi Patterson, a University of Surrey PhD student, and Valerie van Mulukom, a research fellow at Coventry University, stated that they had gone through previous research findings that demonstrated psychedelic drug use to help boost empathy levels. Because lower empathy levels were linked to narcissism, particularly maladaptive narcissism, the two were interested in finding out if there was a link between maladaptive narcissism levels and the use of psychedelics.

However, because prior research focused more on depression and less on narcissistic personality disorder, the authors decided to set their course in that direction. They did this by investigating the connection between narcissistic personality traits and psychedelic drug experiences.

Through the use of Qualtrics, an online survey platform, the researchers surveyed 414 people who had experience with serotonergic psychedelic drugs, such as mushrooms that contained psilocybin and LSD. Apart from answering questions about their most emotionally intense, significant, impressive or awe-inspiring psychedelic experience of the past five years, the participants also completed assessments of narcissism, empathy and connectedness to others.

Strangely enough, ego death was found to be independent of narcissism levels. The researchers discovered that the more awe an individual experienced during a psychedelic experience, the lower the levels of maladaptive narcissism through increased empathetic drive and feelings of connectedness.

Additionally, they also found out that individuals who had a highly significant experience when on psychedelic drugs had a lower score on maladaptive narcissism. This is especially true if they experience significant feelings of awe during the psychedelic trip. Recently experienced awe-inducing occurrences also resulted in stronger connections to humanity and nature in addition to a higher motivation to take part in emotional empathy.

However, as the study only collected data at one point in time, the data was correlational, meaning that it could not be used to determine causal relationships between narcissism, empathy, awe experiences and psychedelics use.

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