What is it about?

Traditionally, psychedelics have been utilized in rituals focused on healing, divination, and socialization. These activities involve myth, music, rhythm, and synchrony to provide structuring, evoke culturally expected visions, and reinforce socially situated expectations. The psychedelic instrumentalization model, proposed here, explains how and why humans developed these practices. We suggest self-medication with psilocybin mushrooms arose among our ancestors as a means to ameliorate the costs associated with serotonin depletion—a recurring adaptive problem throughout human evolution. Afterwards, cultural traditions of psilocybin use were developed to ritually and symbolically harness its salutogenic, sociality-expanding, and cognitive-enhancing properties. We argue these socio-cognitive niche-construction processes, involving amplified musicality and religiosity, potentially increased humans’ adaptability and fitness, while supporting hominization.

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Why is it important?

It has been suggested that psychedelic drug ingestion influenced human evolution; however, this hypothesis about human origins has received little attention and still needs to be examined further. The importance of our paper resides in contributing to this task by formulating an empirically testable model of the adaptive utilization of psychedelics that integrates current anthropological and neuropsychopharmacological knowledge on these substances with the human evolutionary behavioral sciences.


Besides advocating for the relevance of an evolutionary perspective in the task of explaining and therapeutically harnessing the effects of psychedelics, it is hoped that this article will help encourage the incorporation of psychedelics into theoretical and empirical efforts directed at further advancing our understanding of the evolution of human behavior.

José Manuel Rodríguez Arce
Universidad de Costa Rica

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Psychedelics, Sociality, and Human Evolution, Frontiers in Psychology, September 2021, Frontiers,
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.729425.
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