Expanding the Scientific Study of Self-Experience with Psychedelics
The nature of the self has long been a topic of discussion in philosophical and religious contexts, and has recently also garnered significant scientific attention. Although evidence exists to suggest the multifaceted nature of self-experience, the amount of research done on each of its putative components has not been uniform. Whereas selfreflective processing has been studied extensively, non-reflective aspects of self-experience have been the subject of comparatively little empirical research. This discrepancy may be linked to the methodological difficulties in experimentally isolating the latter. Recent work suggests that one potential way to overcome these difficulties is through the experimentally-controlled administration of psychedelic substances that have the ability to reliably alter non-reflective aspects of self-experience. Here, we review what we know so far about the phenomenology of alterations in self-experience that occur as a result of the administration of psychedelics. We also introduce a taxonomy of such alterations in terms that can bridge contemporary cognitive neuroscience and research on psychedelics. We conclude that the scientific understanding of self-experience may be significantly advanced by expanding experimental paradigms and theoretical accounts to incorporate work with psychedelic substances.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada., Email: [email protected]
Publication date: January 1, 2018