Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Joan J. Monin

Second Advisor

Terika T. McCall


Objectives: Psychedelic art is a form of art that emerged in the 1960s during the psychedelic era, which was then characterized by visuals induced by psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. The art form now is known for its bright colors, distorted forms, and intricate patterns, often inspired by the visual experiences people have while under the influence of psychedelic drugs, the creation of which does not necessarily involve any ingestion of psychedelic drugs. This study examines how the viewing of digitally rendered psychedelic art (experimental group) affects people’s emotional, mental, and physical states in comparison to imagery of natural scenery (control group).

Method: Adopting a randomized control trial design, the present study explores the impact of psychedelic art on young adults (18-35 years old). Participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental psychedelic art video group (n=50) or the control scenery video group (n=52). A convergent mixed methods design was used to evaluate whether psychedelic art would affect participants’ emotional, mental, and physical states. Quantitative biometric data, including heart rate, galvanic skin conductance, and eye fixation points, were collected as participants viewed their respective video. A post-video survey was distributed to collect quantitative data on how participants rated the impact of psychedelic art or scenery imagery, the visual appeal of the imagery and associated memory retention and retrieval, as well as qualitative data from open-ended questions on participants’ embodied experiences during the experiment.

Results: One-hundred-and-two individuals were randomly assigned to either the experimental psychedelic art video group (n=50) or the control scenery video group (n=52). Two-sample t-tests indicated inter-group comparability at baseline on all demographic characteristics. Regarding emotional impacts, paired sample t-test showed on galvanic skin conductance at baseline, midpoint and endpoint showed a significant emotional arousal by imageries of both psychedelic art and natural scenery. Regarding overall physical-psychological responses, means of numeric ratings of the impact of psychedelic art and scenery imagery revealed that the former had an overall more calming effect than the latter, but the average sensations of relaxation and reduced stress were lower in the psychedelic art group. Qualitative analysis revealed a greater intensity and diversity of emotional, mental, and physical sensations induced by psychedelic art compared to natural scenery, including sensations of relaxation and peace, anxiety and stress alleviation, sensations of joy, thrill, excitement, and euphoria, sensations of awe and wonder, hypnotizing effect, holistic meditative effect, provocation of wandering and creative thoughts, induced hyperawareness of bodily states, and transitions from induced overstimulation or anxious thoughts to feelings of calmness.

Conclusion: The preliminary findings of this study suggest that psychedelic art is a rich and complex form of visual art that has the potential to facilitate healing and promote well-being and mental health. Psychedelic art presents promising avenues for integration into mental healthcare, therapeutic practices, digital health, healthcare environment, and medical research.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access