The role of awe in psychedelic-induced psychological transformation: Psychedelic Awakening with Awe

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Psychology


Recent years have seen the re-emergence of psychedelic research, termed the psychedelic renaissance (Kelly et al., 2019) as a rapidly growing body of evidence is providing strong support for the positive effects of psychedelic substances on treatment-resistant depression and addictive disorders (Morgan et al., 2017; Carhart-Harris et al., 2018; Palhano-Fontes et al. 2019; for an overview see Nichols, 2016).

Importantly, what has emerged from the studies is that it is the qualitative experience during the psychedelic 'trip' that predicts the positive treatment outcomes: a growing body of evidence links participants' life transformations to the psychedelic-elicited mystical experience (Johnson et al., 2019; Roseman, Nutt & Carhart-Harris,2018; Barrett & Griffiths, 2017, Griffiths et al., 2006; Mollaahmetoglu et al, submitted).

A recent line of work suggests that awe plays a key role in the psychedelic mystical experience and potentially mediates the transformative effects (Hendricks, 2018; Carhart-Harris & Goodwin, 2017).

Building on Hendricks' 2018 work suggesting awe is the mechanism of action behind psychedelics' transformative effects, my project will investigate the complex role of awe in the psychedelic experience and how it relates to the change of self-concept.

I will work with populations suffering from addiction, a disorder characterised by cognitive rigidity (Verdejo-Garcia et al., 2015) that has shown good response to psychedelic-assisted treatments (Morgan et al., 2017; Winkelman, 2014).
The proposed PhD project, informed by work on awe and psychedelic-assisted treatment for addiction, will examine whether psychedelic-elicited awe results in change of self-concept and investigate the potential mediating mechanisms.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2582332 Studentship ES/P000630/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2024 Eirini Ketzitzidou Argyri