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Topics Covered: 1. Introduction 2. Psychological approaches to alien contact and abduction claims 3. Related anomalous memory effects 4. Conclusion
UFOs: The Modern Era
1947: Kenneth Arnold’s sighting 1952:
– Major wave of sightings – Project Bluebook – First report of human-ET contact (Adamski)
1957: First abduction claim (Boas) 1961: Hills’ classic abduction claim
Types of Close Encounter (CE)
Astronomer J Allen Hynek, astronomer (sceptic turned believer), proposed the following classification: • CE1: Sightings • CE2: Physical evidence (photographs, marks on the ground, radar, etc.) • CE3: Human-ET contact • CE4 added: Abduction
.g. e.Close Encounters of the First Kind UFO = Unidentified Flying Object ET = Extraterrestrial UFO does not equal ET 95% of sightings have prosaic explanations – Celestial objects. Venus – Aeroplanes – Satellites .
In fact. 177). . the chase was twice slowed by early morning traffic.” (p.UFO sighting. Ohio. one might reasonably expect that other independent witnesses would have seen the same object. 1966 “if two police cars really were chasing a large UFO only hundreds of feet above the road. Yet none of the hundreds of people who saw the speeding police cars reported seeing the UFO they were chasing.
Close Encounters of the Second Kind Physical evidence in addition to sighting – Photographs Other objects seen from unusual angles Blemishes produced during processing Artefacts of digital photography. cf. “orbs” Deliberate hoaxes – “Landing marks” – Radar .
Close Encounters of the Third Kind George Adamski claimed to have met a visitor from Venus in the Californian desert in 1952 Claimed he was taken for a ride in her spaceship Wrote bestsellers about his adventures .
Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind Antonio Villas Boas claimed he was abducted by aliens in 1957 in Brazil Taken on board spaceship Seduced by female alien – who made “barking” noises during sex! .
1961 Driving from Montreal to New Hampshire in September 1961 Saw a UFO Barney got out of the car to investigate Saw alien faces through the windows of the UFO Got scared and drove home Arrived home two hours later than expected – “missing time” Betty began having dreams of being taken on board the spaceship .Betty and Barney Hill.
Dr Benjamin Simon. with respect to marital problems Under hypnosis. relived full abduction experience Car had been stopped by aliens Taken on board spaceship.Years later… Hills consulted a psychiatrist. medically examined Betty shown “star map” of trade routes .
The Hills’ “Abduction”: 1 the "UFO" was in fact the planet Jupiter the "missing time" was reported inconsistently. the Hills had taken a tortuous route . besides. was not noticed until weeks later (after questioning by UFOlogists) and.
The Hills’ Abduction: 2 hypnosis is not a reliable means for recovering memories (the psychiatrist who carried out the hypnosis in this case did not believe the accounts produced) the star map does not actually bear any close resemblance to any particular group of stars .
pointing out that Strieber claimed to have had many unusual experiences – attacked by skeleton on a motorbike when he was 12 – claimed to have been present during sniper attack – later admitted he had just made it up .Whitley Strieber Two best-selling books published in 1987 led to further interest in alien abductions – and an increase in the number of claims Whitley Strieber’s Communion was the “true” story of the author’s own experiences Strieber was a successful writer of horror stories with a vivid imagination Philip Klass (1988) presented critique.
published Intruders also in 1987 Claimed alien abduction much more common than realised Involved sexual abuse as part of crossbreeding project Places great emphasis upon “missing time” and uses hypnosis to “retrieve” memories .Budd Hopkins New York artist.
. At the end of my bed was a 4 feet high grey alien. slanted. It compelled me. liquid black eyes.Blackmore’s (1994) Composite Abduction Scenario (1) I woke up in the middle of the night and everything looked odd and strangely lit. along curved corridors to an examination room full of tables on which people lay. thin body supported a huge head with two enormous. telepathically. Its spindly. to follow and led me into a spaceship.
several hours had gone by. . When I eventually found myself back in bed. I could see jars containing half-human. half-alien fetuses and a nursery full of silent.Blackmore’s (1994) Composite Abduction Scenario (2) I was forced to lie down while they painfully examined me. extracted ova (or sperm) and implanted something in my nose. sickly children.
often involving warnings of future destruction through pollution or nuclear war Abduction scenario is part of our culture .Common Themes Mostly “greys” these days Tours of the aliens’ ship Trips to other planets Receipt of messages to humanity.
Incidence Strieber (1998) claimed to have received almost a quarter of a million letters from individuals claiming alien contact It is often claimed that many more people have experienced alien abduction than actually report it because – people know that they will be ridiculed if they tell others of their bizarre experience – it is claimed that the aliens are able to erase the memories of the abductees for the experience .
Hopkins. [13%] Feeling that you were actually flying through the air although you didn‟t know how or why. [10%] . 1992 The Roper Poll (N = 6000) Waking up paralysed with a sense of a strange person or presence or something else in the room. Jacobs & Westrum. but you could not remember why or where you had been. [18%] Experiencing a period of time of an hour or more in which you were apparently lost.
The Roper Poll (cont. [8%] Finding puzzling scars on your body and neither you nor anyone else remembering how you received them or where you got them. [8%] .) Seeing unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them or where they came from.
1997)?! Actual number of people with abduction memories far less than that – but still thousands of people worldwide .Interpretation of Roper Poll Hopkins et al. (1992) claimed that if you said “yes” to four or more of these items. you had probably been abducted by aliens 2% of their sample Extrapolated to 3.7 million Americans! 340 every day since 1961 (Klass.
. Travis Walton) but most claimants appear to be sincere and avoid any kind of publicity .g.Are Claimants Lying? Motivations – Financial? – Social? Occasional hoaxes (e.
Evidence for ET Hypothesis Missing Embryo/Foetus Syndrome – no convincing documented cases Alien implants – mundane explanation – “disappear” before scientific analysis .
Clamar. & Howard. & Hopkins. Basterfield. Dickson.. 1994 Parnell & Sprinkle. 1990 Rodeghier et al. & DuBreuil.Psychopathology? (1) Major psychopathology is no more common amongst abductees than the general population – – – – – – Bartholomew. Cross. 1991 Bloecher. 1985 Mack. 1993 . 1991 Spanos.
to be suspicious or distrustful. thoughts. or possibly have schizoid tendencies” .Psychopathology? (2) Parnell and Sprinkle (1990): those who claimed to have communicated with aliens “had a significantly greater tendency to endorse unusual feelings. imaginative. and to be creative. and attitudes.
and poorer sleep patterns. . (1991): relatively higher levels of loneliness. unhappiness. Mack (1994) and Ring & Rosing (1990): high levels of childhood trauma.Psychopathology? (3) Rodeghier et al.
Psychopathology? (4) Ring & Rosing (1990): also reported that. as children. . abductees were more sensitive to “non-ordinary realities”. Stone-Carmen (1994) found that 57% of her sample of abductees reported suicide attempts.
. They spend a great deal of their time fantasising and report that when they imagine something. 1983) Fantasy-prone personalities are typically excellent hypnotic subjects. but are also noted for their profound fantasy lives.The Fantasy-Prone Personality (Wilson & Barber. it appears to them “as real as real”.
these individuals often report paranormal experiences of various types and often believe themselves to be psychic. .The Fantasy-Prone Personality (cont. In line with typical abductees.) The hallucinatory nature of their fantasies leads to frequent confusions between imagination and reality.
out-of-body experiences. 1991. 1997). healing. Nickell. apparitions.. and physiological effects.g.. hypnotic susceptibility. Bartholomew et al. BUT ...Are Abductees Fantasy-Prone? (1) Biographical analyses tend to support the link (e. Characteristics noted include reports of psychic phenomena. .
g. Spanos et al.Are Abductees Fantasy-Prone? (2) Studies comparing groups directly with questionnaire measures have typically not found differences (e.. Rodeghier et al. 1993) except for French et al. but as children were more sensitive to “non-ordinary realities” (?) ... (2008) Ring & Rosing (1990) reported that UFO experiencers were not generally more fantasy-prone. 1991.
Dissociation Dissociative tendencies (i.g.e.. 1994.. Powers. . 2008). French et al.. the tendency for some mental processes to temporarily “split off” from the normal stream of consciousness) have been shown to be higher in those claiming alien contact than in control groups (e.
.Dissociation and Childhood Trauma Tendency to dissociate is associated with histories of childhood trauma which in turn are correlated with fantasy proneness It has been argued that the tendency to dissociate is a defensive mechanism which allows traumatised children to escape the unbearable reality of their lives by entering a more acceptable fantasy world.
Fantasy-Proneness. Childhood Trauma & the Paranormal Possible explanations: – fantasy-prone individuals have appropriate psychological profile to experience genuine paranormal events OR – fantasy-prone individuals imagine paranormal events but think they are real with fantasy-proneness developing as defence mechanism as previously described OR reports of childhood trauma are themselves fantasies .
.. but .Hypnotic Regression Used by many investigators (e. Mack) to “unlock” repressed memories of abduction. … it actually encourages the production of fantasy-based narratives which are then believed in as if they were memories for events which actually occurred...g. Hopkins.
Spanos et al. 1989). . Klass. or who dream of aliens or experience gaps in memory that they are unable to explain. Frequently. 1992. (1994) People who believe that they might have been abducted by aliens but cannot remember. the interviews include two phases. sometimes undergo hypnotic (or nonhypnotic) interviews aimed at uncovering “hidden memories” of their alien abduction (Jacobs.
Spanos et al. strange lights.. These include “missing time” experiences. or a monster). and experiences that suggest hypnagogic imagery or sleep paralysis (e.g. having seen a ghost. unusual or bizarre dreams. . In the first phase background information is obtained and clients are asked about unusual or inexplicable experiences that have occurred during their life. (1994) cont.
Phase 2 typically involves hypnotic or non-hypnotic guided imagery employed to facilitate recall. . Moreover. paralysis. making such experiences salient enhances the likelihood that some of their characteristics (e. Such experiences are defined as distorted memories of alien abduction that call for further probing (Jacobs & Hopkins.Spanos et al. feelings of suffocation) will be incorporated into any abduction memories that are recalled in Phase 2.g.. 1992). (1994) cont.
1992). This may involve leading questions (Baker. These include asking subjects to imagine a curtain and then to peek behind it to view their abduction. .Spanos et al. subjects may be informed that some material is so deeply hidden that several such interviews are required. In addition. 1992). 1992). or to imagine a movie screen on which they see their abduction replayed (Jacobs & Hopkins. or the subject may be pressed repeatedly for more details (Jacobs. (1994) cont. Subjects who have difficulty “remembering” some or all of their abduction are defined as “blocking” and are provided with strategies for facilitating recall.
both in more obvious matters and in odd. 1989) . minute details” (Bullard. […] the contents bore striking similarities to alleged real abductions.Lawson’s (1984) “Imaginary Abductees” They “readily respond[ed] to an initial suggestion with an elaborate and detailed story. with little need for prodding along the way.
McNally. Schacter. Lenzenweger.Susceptibility to False Memories Clancy. and Pitman (2002) used DRM to compare three groups: – those with conscious memories of alien abduction – those who believed themselves to have been abducted but had no memories of it – those who did not claim to have been abducted Abductees most susceptible to false memories .
absorption. fantasy proneness and measures of paranormal belief and experience No significant differences on direct measure of susceptibility to false memories (DRM task) Experiencers also reported higher incidence of sleep paralysis . Fox.The Bial “Experiencer” Project French. Hamilton. Santomauro. & Thalbourne (2008) Experiencers scored higher than matched controls on dissociativity.
Sleep Paralysis Waking up unable to move. strange figures) pressure on the chest floating sensations . often accompanied by … – a terrifying sense of a malign presence – hypnagogic/hypnopompic imagery auditory/visual hallucinations (lights.
Cheyne. Another factor. labeled Intruder. comprising pressure on the chest. breathing difficulties. and pain. Incubus. & Newby-Clark. is conjectured to originate in a hypervigilant state initiated in the midbrain. is attributed to effects of hyperpolarization of motoneurons on perceptions of respiration. and auditory and visual hallucinations.” . consisting of sensed presence. Rueffer. 1999 (1) “One factor. fear.
orientation. consisting of floating/flying sensations. Rueffer. A third factor. and movement”. is related to physically impossible experiences generated by conflicts of endogenous and exogenous activation related to body position. & Newby-Clark. . labeled Unusual Bodily Experiences. 1999 (2) “These two factors have in common an implied alien „other‟ consistent with occult narratives identified in numerous contemporary and historical cultures. and feelings of bliss.Cheyne. out-of-body experiences.
Cross-Cultural Interpretations of ASP Newfoundland – the “Old Hag” Japan – “kanashibari” St Lucia – “kokma” Europe in the Middle Ages – incubus and succubus .
1990) believes that many ostensibly paranormal experiences reflect unusual activity in the temporal lobes Temporal lobe epilepsy is associated with odd sensations.g. out-of-body experiences. .. déjà vu.Temporal Lobe Activity and Tectonic Strain Theory (1) Michael Persinger (e. hallucinations.
g. Blackmore. & Koren. (2005) failed to replicate such effects and claimed that Persinger’s results were best explained in terms of suggestibility of participants and poor doubleblind procedures (Persinger rejected this) .. 2000).Temporal Lobe Activity and Tectonic Strain Theory (2) Persinger claims he can artificially induce similar firing patterns in the temporal lobes leading to reports of unusual sensations (e. Tiller. 1994) and even the subjective appearance of apparitions (Persinger. But Granqvist et al.
for review) but results inconsistent . in press.Temporal Lobe Activity and Tectonic Strain Theory (3) There is evidence to suggest that reputedly “haunted” locations are associated with unusual patterns of electromagnetic activity (see French. Bunton-Stasyshyn. & Davis. Haque. Cortex.
Temporal Lobe Activity and Tectonic Strain Theory (4)
79 volunteers exposed to unusual EMFs, infrasound, both or neither for 50 mins Unusual sensations and experiences recorded Many participants reported unusual sensations (e.g., sense of presence, terror, etc) but… … unrelated to condition! Was related to score on TLS scale – which correlates with suggestibility
Temporal Lobe Activity and Tectonic Strain Theory (5)
Persinger (1990) claims that in susceptible individuals, temporal lobe overactivity can result from magnetic effects produced as a result of the movement of tectonic plates in the earth's crust. Such electromagnetic activity may also give rise to strange luminous effects.
Content of Alien Abduction Narratives
Birth memories? (Lawson, 1984) Sado-masochistic fantasies? (Newman & Baumeister, 1996, 1998) Ambivalence towards modern technology? (Matheson, 1998)
. She reported details of a previous life in Cork.” While hypnotized. Her case was reported as proof of reincarnation in Bernstein’s (1956) best-selling book. The Search for Bridey Murphy. Ireland.Hypnotic Past-life Regression (1) In 1952 one Virginia Tighe was hypnotized. she spoke in a distinct Irish accent that she did not have normally and described her life in Cork in great detail. as “Bridey Murphy.
Hypnotic Past-life Regression (2) The case was thoroughly investigated several years later. as a child. Further. which she had delivered in what her former teacher referred to as a heavy Irish brogue” . It was discovered that.. Tighe had been involved in theater in high school and had “learned several Irish monologues. it was revealed that Mrs. Tighe had had a neighbor across the street who had grown up in Ireland and used to tell her stories about life there.. Mrs. The woman’s maiden name? You guessed it – Bridey Murphy. .
Cardiff-based hypnotherapist Recorded past-life regression sessions Featured in BBC documentary and book by Jeffery Iverson (1977) Jane Evans. Jacques Couer – Life in Roman Britain . Welsh housewife. six previous incarnations.g. e.: – Maid in house of 15th century French nobleman.The Bloxham Tapes Arnall Bloxham.
as fictional characters appear in Evans’ account Crytomnesia . author Thomas B. The Moneyman.Explanation of the Bloxham Tapes Melvin Harris – Evans claimed Couer was single but the historical record showed he was married with children – But in historical novel. Costain had taken the literary liberty of making him single – Roman Briton incarnation based on novel The Living Wood.
. expectation and knowledge (often “Hollywood” version) Rarely able to answer questions that someone living in that time would be able to answer (e.. 1994) Fantasy prone personality is particularly likely to report detailed accounts of past lives Narratives based upon imagination. What is your currency? Who is your ruler? Is your country at war?) .Spanos et al. (e.g.g. fantasy.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Formerly Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) Cf. past-life regression Apparently different personas who may or may not be aware of each other Usually only emerges in therapy following leading hypnotic interviews Often claimed to be the result of Satanic ritualised abuse (SRA) .
Smith & Pazder (1980) .Satanic Ritualised Abuse No forensic evidence supports claims of widespread and powerful networks engaged in SRA Claims pushed strongly by the Evangelical Christian movement in USA Michelle Remembers.
Iatrogenic Origins of DID The majority of therapists report never having come across such patients. a small minority report a large number of cases The percentage of DID cases reporting ritualised abuse rose from 25% in the mid1980s to as high as 80% in some centres by 1992 Such cases are still relatively rare in the UK compared to a much higher reported incidence in the US .
The therapist then addresses the patient's alters and asks if any of them recognize the material or remember similar experiences (Mulhern. satanic abuse memories are elicited during hypnotic interviews that explicitly suggest such abuse. In such cases it is common for the therapist to explicitly describe satanic rituals and possibly to show the patient pictures of satanic symbols or photographs of possible cult leaders.Spanos et al. . (1994) Frequently. 1991a).
The claims are probably due to false memories. People are generally sincere in making such claims. .Conclusion (1) No convincing evidence that people really are being abducted by aliens. often as a result of hypnotic regression or similar techniques.
Conclusion (2) Shared cultural knowledge and individual anomalous experiences such as sleep paralysis appear to be important contributory factors. but further research is needed. . Fantasy-proneness and unusual activity in the temporal lobes may also be implicated.
Conclusion (3) Similar “memory retrieval” techniques are used to “retrieve” memories of childhood sexual abuse. ritualised satanic abuse. alien abduction episodes and past lives The accumulated evidence strongly suggests that all such apparent memories are false memories .
for permission to use illustrations featured in this presentation. proprietor of the Mary Evans Picture Library.Acknowledgement With thanks to Hilary Evans. . These illustrations must not be reproduced in any form without permission from the Mary Evans Picture Library.