Science

Misreporting and confirmation bias in psychedelic research

Let us be clear: we are not suggesting malicious intent. Our point is that paradigmatic expectations can make it all too easy to cherry-pick, misunderstand and then misrepresent results so as to render them consistent with the reigning worldview. And because the community at large shares the same expectations, such errors easily go unnoticed.

Perhaps more worryingly, paradigmatic expectations may be playing a disproportionate role in the research itself. However, a recent overview situates the latest psychedelic research in a larger historical context. Informed observers have always interpreted psychedelic experiences as incursions into awareness of normally hidden parts of the mind. The hypothesis is that psychedelics disrupt some sort of “reducing valve” mechanism that normally confines awareness within limits defined by the needs of everyday life. Today’s physicalist neuroscientists aspire to provide an account of this process in strictly neural terms, under the assumption that everything that enters awareness must come from somewhere in the brain. Although determined proponents of the physicalist worldview regard such ideas as unworthy of consideration, we dare to think otherwise. For one, transformative experiences like those produced by psychedelics can occur under a wide variety of circumstances bearing little physiological similarity with psychedelic states. A broader—but still naturalistic—“reducing valve” model can accommodate these phenomena.

Original Article (Scientific American):
Misreporting and confirmation bias in psychedelic research
Artwork Fair Use: Paull.John

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