Research and Studies

on the Programs Designed by Werner Erhard


“Innumerable studies have been done that have demonstrated, very scientifically, the extraordinary positive effect that est has had on people and changed really, millions of lives. The other interesting thing is, there are studies that have demonstrated that people who have taken est are more empathic and are more motivated to be of service to others.” - Professor James R. Doty

James R. Doty, MD, is a clinical professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University of which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the founding benefactor.  Dr. Doty speaks about the outcomes of numerous scientific studies conducted on Werner Erhard’s est Training here.



Internationally recognized social scientist, Daniel Yankelovich surveyed more than 1300 people who completed The Forum during a three-month period. Prior to their Forum, people were asked what they expected to achieve in the course; after The Forum, they were asked about the benefits they actually received.

Four areas were explored: the value of The Forum, the profile of participants, satisfaction levels after The Forum, and unexpected benefits that were experienced. A few of the findings include: • More than 90% of participants reported practical and enduring value for their life - well worth the time and cost. • More than 90% of participants reported a better understanding of relationships and their role in them. • Nearly every participant received unexpected benefits - ranging from the ability to control weight to achieving personal and professional goals.

"Several of the study's findings surprised me quite a bit, especially the large number of participants for whom The Forum proved to be 'one of the most valued experiences of my life.' This is not a sentiment that people, particularly successful, well-educated people, express lightly. I can understand why people recommend The Forum to their associates, friends, and relatives." Read the full study



The results of the Programs of Werner Erhard have been studied and documented by independent university-based researchers. The following is a summary of some of the more important studies.

The Behaviordyne Report (1973)

227 persons participating in the July 1972 est training were the experimental subjects for this study. Participants were studied before and after the training. In addition, a control group of 200 people who did NOT take the est training were matched with the test group in terms of age, sex, vocational and economic variables and were administered the tests at the same time as the test group. The test used was the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), a widely researched and respected measurement of behavior. The people participating in the training showed many significant improvements over controls. The overall findings of the researchers as reported in their publication were:

1. Measurable Improvements occur as a result of participating in the est training.

2. The improvements continue to be measurable for at least three months following the training.

3. The psychological picture that emerges as a result of the est training is that of a happier and psychologically sounder person.

The Lewis Study (1976)

The purpose of this study was to determine if the findings of the Behaviordyne study persisted over a long period of time. Lewis studied the same people who had participated in the Behaviordyne study, except that she measured them eighteen months after participating in the training. The weakness of the study is that she was able to test only 34 of the original 227 who participated. However, the results of testing those 34 showed, according to Lewis, that “The picture that emerges is that of a person who continues to be psychologically sounder since the est training.”

Of note in both the Lewis study and the Behaviordyne study is that NO deleterious or untoward effects of the training were recorded.

The Weiss Study (1977)

Weiss studied 77 people who participated in an est training in June of 1976. As a control group, he selected people who were also registered for a training, but who did not participate in the training during the time of the study. By selecting a control group of people also intending to participate in the training, he designed his study to control for the fact that just registering for the training may select people with a high commitment to change.

Weiss’s study demonstrated clear-cut and sizeable changes as a result of participating in the est training. These results, all beneficial, were not demonstrated by people in the control group.

In short, the most significant findings of Weiss were that (a) The distress scale scores of training participants DECREASED by 32% while the control group’s scores decreased by only 4%. (b) The discrepancy between who people want to be and who they feel they are DECREASED by 44% among training participants and by only 5% amongst people in the control group. (c) Measures of AUTONOMY increased by 87% amongst the participants of the training while it increased only by 17% amongst people in the control group.

It is significant to note that all studies thus far presented are scientifically controlled and all rely on measured data, not self-reports. Therefore, these studies are not measuring simply the opinions of the training participants.

The Lindberg Study (1978)

The “locus of control” measure is a measure which shows whether or not an individual sees him/herself as determining his/her own life (“internal” locus of control) or whether they see their life as being determined by the circumstances around them (“external” locus of control).

87 participants of the est training were studied. A matched control group consisted of 39 people who had not taken the est training. Lindberg found that est training participants were significantly more “internal” (more able to see themselves as determining their own life) than people in the control group.

The Hartke Study (1980)

Hartke examined the impact of the est training on ego development level. In his study, Hartke points out that ego development level is one of the most stable parameters of psychological wellbeing and highly unlikely to be influenced by transient, non-significant interventions.

Hartke's conclusion was that “significant increases in ego development level were found both immediately following the training and several months later.”

The Simon Study (1978)

This report presents a clinical analysis by a psychiatrist of 67 of his patients who took the est training. Most of the analysis is devoted to the 49 patients who took the training while in therapy with him, patients whose condition he was able to observe before and after the training.

This study is important because it offers a professional psychiatrist’s view of the impact of the est training on a population of people who might be considered to be at risk in any sort of non-therapeutic intervention. While no direct testing was done and no control groups employed, the results are the observations of a trained psychiatrist, not a ”self-report” of the patients themselves. Also, the study was judged worthy to be published in one of the profession’s leading and most prestigious journals.

Of the 49 patients whom Simon observed while participating in the training, he reported that 30 (61 percent) benefited from their participation. Nineteen of the 49 (39 percent) remained the same. None got worse or suffered any ill effects as a result of the training. Thus, in a population which would be considered least able to benefit from the training, 61% improved. Also, in this high risk population, there was no evidence of any harm whatsoever.

Myth exposed - The est Training is not psychotherapy

In this clip from the Dinah Shore Show on August 18, 1976, Dr. Justin Simon explains his years of study of the est Training, with full endorsement. Dr. Simon busts the myth that there is anything harmful about the est Training, and distinguishes the est Training from psychotherapy/therapy in no uncertain terms.

The Paul Study (1978)

This study, performed by a Boston Psychiatrist, is another example of the results of the training observed in a clinical setting. No adverse effects of the training were observed in 145 patients who took the training while in therapy with Dr. Paul. The other points of Dr. Paul’s study, namely observing the effect of the training on family integration, although positive, are not relevant here. In short, his conclusion was: “…the est training experience looms as an exciting entity which can be coordinated with family-focused treatment…so as to provide individuals and members of their family…with an experience…wherein they can become related to the broader community.”

The Hamsher Study (1980)

Dr. Herb Hamsher, a psychotherapist and professor of psychology, studied the responses to questionnaires of 242 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who had participated in the est training. The 242 respondents averaged nearly 10 years of experience in their field and saw a total of 4777 patients per week. Although this study was a self-report survey, it was a survey of professionals, not merely average participants of the training. Therefore, it was a survey of professional views.

Ninety-five percent of the professionals surveyed reported that the est training had a positive impact in their own lives. Ninety percent reported that the training had had a positive impact on their ability to practice therapy successfully.

The 242 professionals in Hamsher’s study reported that 1739 of their patients had taken the est training. The questionnaire showed that 163 of those patients had been hospitalized for emotional disorders PRIOR TO the training. In this group, 73% had NO hospitalizations following the training. Twenty percent had FEWER hospitalizations after the training than before. Seven percent had the same number of hospitalizations after the training as before. NONE had more hospitalizations after the training than before. Thus 93 percent of patients who had been hospitalized before the training showed an IMPROVEMENT in hospitalization rate after the training, and NONE got worse.

This unique study surveyed the largest number of psychiatric patients known to have participated in the est training. In every case, there was no negative effect, and in 93% of cases there was improvement. This is an extraordinarily beneficial result in a population where the training promises no impact, namely patients in therapy. Also, the fact that in this high risk population there was no evidence of any detrimental effect of the training argues very strongly that the training was a safe, beneficial undertaking.

The Knight-Meyers Study (1982)

This psychologist studied the impact of the est training on therapists practicing psychotherapy. To do this, she undertook case studies of 15 psychotherapists who enrolled in the est training in the Northeast United States.

Fourteen of the fifteen subjects reported decreases in their feelings of frustration with their “most frustrating clients” following the training.

Barbara Knight-Myers - Univeristy of Pennslyvania

The Babbie and Stone Report (1977)

In 1973, Dr. Robert Ornstein, a nationally known psychologist, and a team of social scientists conducted a national survey of people who had participated in the est training. 1465 participants were surveyed with a 680 item questionnaire. The results of that survey were reported by Drs. Earl Babbie and Donald Stone.

Improvements were reported in many areas, for example, in job productivity, in relationships with family and friends, and overall in mental health (83% of respondents reported an improvement in their mental health, and 96% of mental health professionals in the survey reported improvement in their mental health). This study was a self-report survey, and there is no proof that the improvements reported were due to the est training.

The Children of est

The Forum was found to have a definite structure, curriculum, and pedagogical approach. The primary conepts of The Forum, called "distinctions" were identified. The data indicate that qualitatively significant results were produced in participants' cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains of functioning. Most participants attributed significant life effects to their experience.

Summary of the Evidence of Benefit

The examples of studies on the training reviewed here provide a weight of evidence warranting the conclusion that the est training was a source of substantial benefit for the vast majority of those who participated in it. While no single study is ever without methodological shortcomings (true of research in general), the collection of studies above complement each other. That is, the shortcomings of one are compensated for by strengths in another. The overall picture which emerges is that of a valid, beneficial program which benefited the vast majority of people who participated in it.

Research on the Benefits of The est Training Several reports point to the benefit of the est Training. (Compiled by Earl Babbie)

Report on the est Training By Humberto Maturana

Assessment of the Philosophical Significance of the est training By Hubert Dreyfus

est- a Philosophical Appraisal Michael Zimmerman

The est Training in the Prisons: A Basis for the Transformation of Corrections? by Mark Woodward, University of Baltimore Law Journal, 1982 

est in Prison by Earl Babbie, Ph.D., American Journal of Corrections, Volume 39, Number 6, 1977

est Outcome Study by Robert Ornstein, Ph.D



Werner Erhard

At all times and under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.
Werner Erhard





Video Courtesy of Symon Productions

Jerome Rabow Ph.D.

ULCA Dept.of Sociology

on his study of est graduates:

A Comparative Study of Estians, Psychoanalysands, and the Untreated, 1979


"There was a lot of very critical commentary about est in the literature...So I decided to do this study. The surprising finding was that the graduates of est were much more concerned with the welfare of other human beings. Here was a group of people that basically were being maligned by the media for being narcissistic, self indulgent, self centered, egoistic - and it turns out they were not."

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