Differences in Existential Perspectives as a Function of Having a Mystical-Type Experience

Alex Sielaff, Dylan E. Horner, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research suggests that unique phenomenological experiences called “mystical-type experiences” (MTEs) have the potential to induce significant and persisting worldview changes. In this article, two studies add to this literature by using cross-sectional data from 837 and 1,086 participants, respectively, to investigate whether people who have had one of these experiences differ in predictable ways from those who have not on relevant existential variables. Specifically, we tested two novel hypotheses rooted in terror management theory, along with two predictions based on past research. In specific, the yes-MTE group was hypothesized to have (a) less fear of death and greater belief in death as a passage, (b) a more intrinsic and growth-oriented worldview, (c) fewer mental health symptoms, and (d) higher trait absorption. The data largely supported hypotheses 1, 2, and 4 while the results for hypothesis 3 were opposite of expectations, suggesting that clinical research with psychedelic-induced MTEs may not be generalizable to MTEs experienced outside the supportive therapeutic context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Humanistic Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • death anxiety
  • existential psychology
  • mystical experience
  • psychedelics
  • religion and spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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