How Chanting Relates to Cognitive Function, Altered States and Quality of Life


Chanting is practiced in many religious and secular traditions and involves rhythmic vocalization or mental repetition of a sound or phrase. This study examined how chanting relates to cognitive function, altered states, and quality of life across a wide range of traditions. A global survey was used to assess experiences during chanting including flow states, mystical experiences, mindfulness, and mind wandering. Further, attributes of chanting were assessed to determine their association with altered states and cognitive benefits, and whether psychological correlates of chanting are associated with quality of life. Responses were analyzed from 456 English speaking participants who regularly chant across 32 countries and various chanting traditions. Results revealed that different aspects of chanting were associated with distinctive experiential outcomes. Stronger intentionality (devotion, intention, sound) and higher chanting engagement (experience, practice duration, regularity) were associated with altered states and cognitive benefits. Participants whose main practice was call and response chanting reported higher scores of mystical experiences. Participants whose main practice was repetitive prayer reported lower mind wandering. Lastly, intentionality and engagement were associated with quality of life indirectly through altered states and cognitive benefits. This research sheds new light on the phenomenology and psychological consequences of chanting across a range of practices and traditions.

Brain Sciences, (12), 11, pp. 1456,