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The Role of Expectancy in Psychedelic Research

Article Title: “Expectancy Effects in Psychedelic Trials

Authors: Balázs Szigeti, B. Heifets

Publication Date: February, 2024

DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2024.02.004


In recent years, the scientific community has reignited its interest in psychedelic substances, exploring their potential for treating various mental health disorders. These compounds, which include psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and LSD, are known for inducing profound changes in consciousness and perception. However, an often-overlooked aspect of these trials is the impact of expectancy—the beliefs and attitudes participants bring into the study—on their outcomes.


Study Overview

The study conducted by Szigeti and Heifets delves deep into the concept of expectancy effects within the context of psychedelic research. By analysing data from various clinical trials, the authors investigate how participants’ preconceived notions about psychedelics influence their trial experiences and outcomes.

Key Findings

Expectancy plays a significant role in the effectiveness of psychedelics:

The study illustrates that participants who enter trials with positive expectations tend to report more beneficial outcomes.

The placebo effect is strong:

In many cases, individuals receiving placebo substances but believing they are receiving psychedelics, report experiences and improvements similar to those who receive the actual drugs.

Awareness of being part of a psychedelic study influences outcomes:

Knowledge about the study’s focus can affect participants’ experiences, highlighting the importance of considering these expectations in trial designs.


This research underscores the complexity of conducting psychedelic studies and the necessity of accounting for psychological factors such as expectancy. It suggests that through the mind’s power, expectancy can significantly influence the efficacy of these substances.


Understanding the expectancy effects can lead to more holistic interpretations of psychedelic research outcomes. It can also improve clinical trial designs by incorporating methods to account for these effects, ensuring that the results reflect the compounds’ true therapeutic potential.

Potential Application

The findings could revolutionise the way psychedelic therapies are approached, emphasising the need for a holistic view that includes psychological preparation. The influence of expectancy effects illuminates the crucial role of intention setting prior to psychedelic journeys to maximise their therapeutic benefits.


This paper opens new avenues for understanding and improving psychedelic research and experiences. By acknowledging and addressing the influence of expectancy, researchers can enhance the validity and reliability of their findings, paving the way for more effective treatments for mental health conditions.


Szigeti, B., & Heifets, B. (2024). Expectancy effects in psychedelic trials. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

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