Dr. Matthias Forstmann is a social psychologist from the University of Cologne, Germany, who investigates a variety of topics related to the human mind. His dissertation work focused on experimental philosophy of mind, specifically on people’s common-sense beliefs and intuitions about how the mind relates to the body. He is further involved in research programs investigating different aspects of religious belief, moral judgment, and essentialism. Together with Dr. Christina Sagioglou (University of Innsbruck, Austria) he currently examines the non-clinical effects of psychedelic substances on cognition and behavior. Specifically, he is investigating how lifetime experience with these substances may alter beliefs and attitudes on a variety of dimensions, and which cognitive processes may be causally responsible for these long-term effects. In particular, his current line of research is focused on how the psychedelic experience can shape people’s perceived relationship with nature, as well as the behavioral consequences of this perception.
TITLE: Lifetime experience with psychedelic substances predicts pro-environmental behavior through an increase in feelings of connectedness with nature.
One common experience that many people under the influence of certain psychedelic substances share is a profound feeling of connectedness. This feeling may come in the form of perceived connectedness with the universe, earth, the trees and animals, or with a more abstract word spirit or soul. Further, most shamanic traditions involving plant hallucinogens emphasize the importance of our relationship with nature and teach respect for other organism and nature as a whole. In our present work, we tested whether a history of psychedelic substance use is indeed related to how people view themselves in relation to nature and how this my affect their daily behaviors. Specifically, in a large-scale (N = 1500) general population online study we investigated a hypothesized relationship between lifetime experience with psychedelic substances, nature relatedness, and pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., saving water and energy, recycling). Using structural equation modeling we found that experience with common psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, DMT, and Mescaline) uniquely predicts self-reported engagement in pro-environmental behaviors. Further, we found that this relation was statistically explained by an increase in the personality dimension of nature relatedness. Specifically, one sub-component of this dimension—the level of self-identification with nature—fully mediated the association between psychedelic use and pro-environmental behavior. Importantly, our model controlled for experiences with other classes of psychoactive substances (e.g., cannabis, dissociatives, empathogens) as well as common personality traits that usually predict drug consumption and/or pro-environmental behavior (e.g., openness to experience, conscientiousness), This indicates that lifetime experience with psychedelics in particular promotes pro-environmental behavior by changing people’s view on how much they are part of the natural world, regardless of their core personality traits or general propensity to consume mind-altering substances. Further lines of research investigating the underlying processes behind the observed relation and the potential for studies aiming at causal evidence will be discussed.