Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2016 Sep;233(18):3395-403.
doi: 10.1007/s00213-016-4377-8. Epub 2016 Jul 19.

Ayahuasca Enhances Creative Divergent Thinking While Decreasing Conventional Convergent Thinking

Free PMC article

Ayahuasca Enhances Creative Divergent Thinking While Decreasing Conventional Convergent Thinking

K P C Kuypers et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). .
Free PMC article


Introduction: Ayahuasca is a South American psychotropic plant tea traditionally used in Amazonian shamanism. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting properties. Increasing evidence from anecdotal reports and open-label studies indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic effects in treatment of substance use disorders and depression. A recent study on the psychological effects of ayahuasca found that the tea reduces judgmental processing and inner reactivity, classic goals of mindfulness psychotherapy. Another psychological facet that could potentially be targeted by ayahuasca is creative divergent thinking. This mode of thinking can enhance and strengthen psychological flexibility by allowing individuals to generate new and effective cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies. The present study aimed to assess the potential effects of ayahuasca on creative thinking.

Methods: We visited two spiritual ayahuasca workshops and invited participants to conduct creativity tests before and during the acute effects of ayahuasca. In total, 26 participants consented. Creativity tests included the "pattern/line meanings test" (PLMT) and the "picture concept test" (PCT), both assessing divergent thinking and the latter also assessing convergent thinking.

Results: While no significant effects were found for the PLMT, ayahuasca intake significantly modified divergent and convergent thinking as measured by the PCT. While convergent thinking decreased after intake, divergent thinking increased.

Conclusions: The present data indicate that ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking. They suggest that ayahuasca increases psychological flexibility, which may facilitate psychotherapeutic interventions and support clinical trial initiatives.

Keywords: Ayahuasca; Conventional convergent thinking; Creativity; Divergent creative thinking; Field study.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Mean (±SE) of visual analog scale scores on 28 items during the ayahuasca experience
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Convergent thinking (left side) and divergent thinking (right side) as measured with the PCT, before and after ayahuasca ingestion. The white bar represents the mean (±SE) of group 1, they gray bar of group 2, and the dark bar the mean of the two groups together. Convergent thinking deteriorated after ayahuasca ingestion while divergent thinking improved as indicated by the asterisk (*)

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 17 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Alonso JF, Romero S, Mananas MA, RibaJ (2015) Serotonergic psychedelics temporarily modify information transfer in humans. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 18(8). doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyv039 - PMC - PubMed
    1. Anderson BT. Ayahuasca as antidepressant? Psychedelics and styles of reasoning in psychiatry. Anthropol Conscious. 2012;23(1):44–59. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-3537.2012.01056.x. - DOI
    1. Baas M, DeDreu C, Nijstad B. A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus? Psychol Bull. 2008;134:779–806. doi: 10.1037/a0012815. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Beaty RE, Silvia PJ. Why do ideas get more creative across time? An executive interpretation of the serial order effect in divergent thinking tasks. Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts. 2012;6(4):309–3019. doi: 10.1037/a0029171. - DOI
    1. Beaty RE, Benedek M, Silvia PJ, Schacter DL. Creative cognition and brain network dynamics. Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 - PMC - PubMed

MeSH terms

LinkOut - more resources