April 20, 2017

How to…

Before attempting to make sense of the presented data you might want to read the following information. This information is thought to help non-scientists to derive an appropriate understanding of the presented graphs. Find below some explanations and additional information that should be helpful.

Please expand the bulletpoints to find more detailed information.


How to understand the presented data

Graphs provided by the ASDB – Database give information about the effects of different induction methods for altered states of consciousness. These presented graphs allow to extract the following information:

Find the results of scientific reports, which investigated the effects of different induction methods of altered states of consciousness. These include the intake of substances, but also methods without substances like meditation.

What does it mean to measure the effect of an induction method of an altered state of consciousness? Imagine a questionnaire was filled in three hours before a drug was administered. After the drug intake, the questionnaire is filled out again. The difference of the answers between the first and second time point would indicate an effect of the drug.

In scientific studies much emphasize is put on standardized conditions under which the data is collected. To test the psychological effects of a particular substance therefore follows very well controlled procedures. Typically drugs are applied in a laboratory environment, which significantly differs from the environment in which drugs are usually consumed.

If everything is kept constant and there is a controlled induction of the altered state, why are there multiple studies with the same substance, possibly with the same dosage? The answer is simple: Not everything can be kept constant. Every person reacts a little different on each substance, which can be named individual difference. This applies to single persons within one group, but also to different groups. As for example, study participants who make a well-briefed decision to take part in a laboratory setting as compared to people who consume the same drug recreationally at a music festival.

Please consider when you interpret the data: The data was typically gathered in a laboratory setting. This setting by itself can alter the effects of the induction method. Hence, it is not possible to transfer these results one-to-one to different situations.

Only results from peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals are displayed. References to the original publications are provided below the graphs. We highly recommend to access the original articles and read them, as our database only covers some aspects of the data.

Scientific journals have a control mechanism to guarantee high quality of the published articles. This includes that the scientific work corresponds to the common practice in the respective research fields. In peer-review, experts of the field read the article before it is published and if appropriate suggest improvements in the reported experiment and analysis. Each graph corresponds to data of studies, which were published in such journals. The exact title, authors, the year of publication and the name of the journal are given as a reference. These references give detailed information about the studies.

Each graph represents data of studies, which used the same questionnaire and same induction method. The scale of the graph is a result of the applied questionnaire. Different data points represent average answers on the respective scales. Error-bars represent the variation in averaged answers. For each study, it is shown how many people were participating in the respective study.

To have a profound understanding of the data presented in the ASDB, it is important to have a grasp on the nature of questionnaire studies. The selected questionnaires aim to test different aspects of an altered state experience.

Multiple questions are asked, which in combination measure a particular factor (also called “basic dimension of consciousness”), which is basically an umbrella term such as “Visual restructuralization”. In other words, multiple questions aiming at the same factor are pooled together. On the bottom of each graph, the respective factors are listed.

In every study, the same questionnaire is given to each study participant. The number of study participants is declared with a capital “N” (for “N”umber of subjects). Each datapoint represents the average of N participatns in one study. Please note: The more participants have been part of a study, the more reliable the data is.

In the graphs you can also find a measure for the variation or variability that is found among the participatns. Each datapoint is supplemented with so called error-bars. These error-bars represent the so called standard deviation from the mean. The length of the error-bars indicates how much of differences the individual participants displayed in answering the questionnaire. Small error-bars mean that all participants had very similar experiences. Large error-bars indicate that the different participants had drastically different experiences.


How to use the database

Switching from Line Plot to Bar Plot: What’s the Difference?

With a simple click of the button in the form of a display changes the appearance of the chart. The database allows you to switch from a line plot to a bar plot and vice versa. The data provided in both cases is identical. In the bar plot, the height of the bars indicate the score. In the line plot, the height of the corresponding point indicates the score. One could assume that the connection between “Affect” and “Cognition”, which are the two concepts on the x-axis, bears additional meaning of the line plot as compared to the bar plot, but this connection exists only visually and does not contain any further information. The colour coding for both types of plots is the same. It is advisable to use the type of plot which offers the clearest overview of the data.

Two Axes: About Scores and Concepts

In the graphs provided by the ASDB, the information is coded within two Axes. The horizontal x-axis corresponds to the factors (the umbrella terms or sometimes called “basic dimensions of consciousness”) measured by the applied questionnaire. The x-axis in graphs provided by this database represents a so-called nominal scale. This means that the order of the concepts on the axis is irrelevant for the interpretation of the data.

The vertical y-axis gives information of the score given by participants in the questionnaire. A higher score corresponds to respective answers in the questionnaire. The y-axis can also take negative values, depending on the used questionnaire.

The Legend: Color Coding and the Meaning of “N”

The results of different studies with the same induction method and questionnaire are represented within one graph. Each row in the legend represents the data from one study. They are color coded according to the symbol on the left of each row. Next to this symbol, “N” is given. “N” is the number of subjects who participated in the study. Furthermore, the dosage of the substance used in the study is specified. In brackets, the author and the year of publication of the respective study are shown.

Using this legend, you have multiple options to manipulate the graph. It is possible to select the data which should be represented in the plot. By clicking once, you can exclude a study from the plot. By clicking twice, you can exclude all other studies but the clicked one from the plot.

Mousover: A Pop-Up of the Mean and Standard Deviation

By hovering over with the mouse, you can expand single data points. In this case, the information of “affect” is given for each colour coded study. The first number is the exact score of the data, which is the mean of the answers given by the participants in each study respectively. “Std” is the standard deviation and gives an indication on how variable the data for the respective concept of the questionnaire was in each study.