Response to Helvenston

The journal Adaptive Behavior has published another round of short communications that were inspired by our paper on Turing patterns and altered states of consciousness. In her commentary, Helvenston raised a number of general concerns that, although somewhat unrelated to our original proposal, provided us with an opportunity to dig deeper into the literature in our response.

People in the Paleolithic could access the whole spectrum of consciousness: Response to Helvenston

Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward, and Takashi Ikegami

Three kinds of hallucinations have repeatedly been identified in the literature on altered states of consciousness (ASCs): visions of (1) geometric forms, (2) figures and objects, and (3) complete scenes. Lewis-Williams’ neuropsychological model draws on these reports to gain insights into the minds of Paleolithic people, on the basis of shared neurobiology and given comparative ethnographic data on ritualized ASCs. Helvenston has long rejected this model because in many ASCs hallucinations do not always adhere to a strict 1-2-3 sequence, because they do not always feature animals, and because people do not always lose their critical faculties. She is right, but she is attacking a straw man because these criteria are her own. Helvenston’s claims about the effects of psychoactive compounds and sensory deprivation are also questionable. It remains an open question how our Turing pattern model relates to more figurative forms of hallucinations.

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