Skip to main content
Get your Wikispaces Classroom now:
the easiest way to manage your class.
Pages and Files
Aliens and abductions
Alternative Medicine Biologically-based
Alternative Medicine Energy Medicine
Alternative Medicine Manipulative
Alternative Medicine Mind-body medicine
Alternative Medicine Whole Medical Systems
Cryptozology Water animals
Cryptozoology Land animals
Defining science and pseudoscience
Education, teaching, and learning
Food science, nutrition, and diet
Fraudulent psychological treatments
Ghosts, spirits, and demons
Intelligent Design Creation Science
Psychic powers and ESP
Rewriting the past and pseudohistory
The apocalypse and end of the world theories
Add "All Pages"
Aliens and abductions
Table of Contents
Aliens and Abductions
I. Phenomena of alien abductions
A. Natural Curiosity
B. The Typical Abduction Story
C. First Case of Alien Abduction
II. Theories of Abductions
A. Psychiatry and Abduction Patients
B. Culture and Alien Abductions
Aliens and Abductions
By: Courtney Rhone
I. Phenomena of alien abductions
For many years now, people have been interested in what’s out there and explaining the unseen and unknown. People talk about strange occurrences at Area 51 bright lights in the sky, they gather at UFO conventions where they discuss sightings and abduction experiences that they’ve had. Some people are fascinated with life on other planets and with thoughts of what these beings would look like. Some of them are interested in finding discoveries more far reaching than most people can imagine. There are many theories as to why people believe that they’ve been abducted, and also how alien abduction memories can be implanted in one’s mind. A possible explanation for why humans are fascinated by things unknown and by what we can’t or have not seen is because they represent new knowledge that can be gained.
UFO photo illustration Creative Commons published in 2010
By Henrique Senna via Wikimedia Commons
A. Natural Curiosity
Humans tend to have a natural curiosity for the unknown. For many years, people have been fascinated with lights in the sky and what might be beyond. People have a natural and sometimes insatiable appetite for obscure and chimerical notions. Our propensity for seeking out answers to the unknown can sometimes lead to fantastic “discoveries” The human brain is amazing in that humans have the ability to imagine things. Humans also have the ability to experience the correspondence bias. The research that has been done on the correspondence bias indicates that people tend to accept another person’s behavior and words at face value (Gilbert, 1995). Humans have a penchant for trusting communicators. This has been one of the most consistent findings in deception literature (DePaulo et al., 1985). This could also be why support groups are so important to people. They search for information and other people who can confirm their own thoughts and ideas.
B. The Typical Abduction Story
The typical alien abduction story that has been repeated numerous times goes something like this: The “abductees” experience a period of sleep paralysis; a lot of people claim to experience hallucinations during their sleep paralysis episode. The hallucinations vary, but usually include electrical tingling sensations throughout the body, feeling of levitation, loud buzzing sounds, flashing lights, and one of the most noted hallucinations would be the figures hovering near the bed. The entire experience only lasts seconds-perhaps minutes. Upon fully awaking, abductees usually believe that something has happened either during their sleep paralysis or just before they became fully awake. After these events, visit a hypnotherapist. It is during their hypnotherapy sessions that they recover their repressed memories of being abducted by aliens. Nearly all of alien abduction stories include being taken on to an alien space ship, sexual experimentation, a loss of time, etc. Culture most likely plays a large role in the similarities of the abduction stories that are reported.
By Dominic Harris via Wikimedia Commons
C. First Case of Alien Abduction
One of the first known cases of alien abductions was reported in 1961. Barney and Betty Hill, a New Hampshire couple, claimed to have been abducted by aliens. They were driving thru the White Mountains late at night when Betty noticed a “bright, initially star like UFO that seemed to follow them” (Sagan, 102). Barney thought that the bright light might somehow be harmful to them so he took an alternate route home arriving two hours later than they had expected. Soon after the abduction, Betty read a book that depicted UFOs as otherworld spacecrafts and its occupants were described as little men who sometimes abducted humans (Sagan, 102). After reading about that, she began experiencing terrifying nightmares about she and her husband being abducted. Years later, Barney was referred to a hypnotherapist. Both he and his wife decided to undergo hypnosis. While they were hypnotized, they began to fill in what happened during their two hours of missing time.
They claimed that the UFO landed on the highway and that they were taken onto the spacecraft inhabited by short grey humanoid creatures with long noses (aliens with long noses is contradictory to the usually description of aliens now). They were the subjects of unusual medical experiments. Betty describes a medical examination where a needle is inserted into her navel-this is before the advent of amniocentesis-on Earth that is (Sagan, 102). Some people believe that it is at this point where eggs were taken from Betty, and sperm was taken from her husband. There are many similarities between the Hills’ account and a 1953 film called Invaders from Mars. Particularly the physical attributes of the aliens; their enormous eyes, short, stature, grey skin tone, etc are mirrored features that were originally depicted in the television series The Outer Limits. It would appear as though the popularization of odd incidents such as alien abductions are fueled by media attention in the form of books, films, etc. These things help to bring about increased awareness.
The idea of alien abductions has recently become popularized by autobiographical accounts and also by the media. There has been an increase in the amount of people who believe that they have been abducted. This could be because of the increase in alien abduction movies, books, and magazines. People can become enamored and fascinated by what they read, and some may go so far as to believe that they are experiencing what the characters experience. According to Shermer, “alien abduction phenomenon is the product of an unusual altered state of consciousness interpreted in a cultural context replete with UFOs” (Shermer, 2002) 95. Shermer also says that our zealous search for extraterrestrial life on other planets is another reason why some people claim to be “seeing” UFOs and aliens. The notion of aliens and alien abductions will probably go in and out of popularity depending on what is considered to be “hot in popular culture” (Shermer, 2002).
II. Theories of Abductions
By Garitzko via Wikimedia Commons
There are many theories as to why people believe that they have been abducted by aliens. But how do people come to the conclusion that they have had extraterrestrial contact based on an episode of sleep paralysis? One such theory is that people who believe they were abducted are prone to creating false memories, and also that with the help of hypnoregression, false memories can be planted in the mind. Most individuals who seek the help of a hypnotherapist are going in the hopes that their “repressed” memories will be brought to the surface. By actively seeking out the help of a hypnotherapist, they are only validating their claims that they have been abducted by aliens. Many hypnotherapists use suggestive imagery or guided imagery, which in turn again supports their own claims that they have in fact been abducted by aliens.
Another more plausible reason for alien abduction stories is the presence of abnormal temporal lobe brain activity. The temporal lobe is the laterally protruding portion of each cerebral hemisphere, situated below the parietal lobe and associated with sound perception and interpretation. It is also thought to be the center of memory recall. Penfield and Perot (1963) reported that with the use of direct electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe, auditory hallucinations could be brought about in participants. Patients who suffer from epilepsy often report that their seizures are preceded by strange sensations. The sensations usually include seeing illusory figures, and also experience other visual and auditory hallucinations (O’Donohoe, 1994), feelings of levitation and anxiety (Ervin, 1975). Some people who experience temporal lobe seizures also report a feeling that something enlightening has happened coupled with a sense of missing time. Although, it should be noted that people who claim to have been abducted by aliens are not necessarily suffering from temporal lobe seizures. Persinger (1984) believes that people may have differing degrees of abnormal temporal lobe activity. He also believes that there is a continuum for which one falls on for the severity of abnormal temporal lobe activity. Individuals with a higher level of abnormal temporal lobe activity are more likely to share some of the same experiences as that of a person with epileptic seizures. Though it is worth mentioning that the non-epileptic’s experiences are less intense that those of the individual with epilepsy. Persinger also found that administering the antiepileptic drug carbamazepine eliminated a women’s recurring sense of experiencing the standard alien abduction scenario. This shows that hallucinations that are chemically induced or that are created randomly may play a vital role in the UFO accounts.
A. Psychiatry and Abduction Patients
A higher incidence of perceptual aberration and a belief in unusual forms of causality were generally reported more by individuals who had claimed that they had recovered their repressed memories of alien abductions. It is also more likely that the recovered and repressed memories that are getting reported by these individuals are false memories. The belief in unusual forms of causality or magical ideation has been linked significantly with both false recall and false recognition.
The human mind is incredibly plastic and impressionable. Humans are extremely resilient-which allows us to recover from traumas experienced throughout life. The plasticity of the human mind is astounding.
There have been extreme cases where people have even confessed to heinous crimes that they did not commit. Why would anyone do this? These people really thought that they were at fault. A man by the name of Paul Ingram was accused of and confessed to sexually abusing his children. He initially denied the allegations of the sexual abuse, but after intense hours of being repeatedly questioned by the investigators and being under extreme pressure; he confessed to the crimes. Not only did he confess, but he supplied the investigators with details. The credibility of Ingram’s claims were tested by coming up with a fictitious sexual abuse charge that his children denied. When asked if he committed this crime as well, again he initially denied the accusation. After more questioning and thinking about the alleged crime, he once again confessed but this time it was to a crime that he was not really accused of. The memory had been planted and he filled in the details again.
Another case of how false memories can be implanted in the mind is the relatives study. The older relative is collaborating with the experimenter. They tell four stories about the younger relative, one of which is not true. The false story is about the younger relative getting lost at a shopping mall when they were very young. What they found was that 25% of the participants “remembered” the false event.
Both of these accounts indicate that false memories can be planted, not only can they be planted in the mind, but people will eventually begin to actually remember the event that never happened and supply explicit details about an event that they never experienced.
Knowing that individuals can create false memories, it is a bit more understandable how people come to believe that they have been abducted by aliens. Memories can be created from bits and pieces of dreams or nightmares, sleep-related hallucinations, and the media constantly inundates us in one way or another with outrageous claims such as alien abductions.
Hypnosis seems to be the most common way that people turn their memories of abductions into actual stories that they believe. 71% of the 104 abduction stories were created under hypnosis. If anything, this says a lot about the power of hypnosis. Years of research on hypnosis shows that memory accuracy is not increased; however, what is increased is memory output. Just because people are beginning to remember things that think they have repressed does not mean that these memories are accurate. For this reason, hypnotically induced testimonies are not admissible in courts. If hypnotically induced testimonies are not allowed in courts, it seems as though people would not give hypnosis as much credence as they tend to do. One of the reasons that hypnotically induced testimonies are inadmissible in court is because it makes the witness even more prone to suggestibility. We already know that false memories can be planted in one’s mind and also that after doing so people will begin to create details to go along with these created memories. Given this information, it makes sense that a testimony provided under hypnosis would not be allowed.
Sleep also plays a role the belief in alien abduction stories. Sleeping allows us to consolidate our thoughts and experiences, and it also replays these images over and over which aids in the formation of memories. Things that we are worried about invade our dreams. Usually throughout the day these thoughts are in the back of our minds in our subconscious. Though it is likely that none of these people have actually experienced an encounter with aliens, people see movies that depict a cultural view of aliens, the books that are read also can be considered an experience. They are not actively experienced, but are visually experienced through the media.
Research has shown that women who recovered memories about childhood abuse were more likely to exhibit behavior that suggested memory distortion. Although remembered childhood trauma is considered to be very controversial, some psychologists believe that the experience of trauma can cause amnesia for memories that are too upsetting to be (consciously accessible). The driving force behind this amnesia seems to be repression and dissociation.
Dissociation is usually characterized by an abnormal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences into a stream of consciousness and memory so that traumatic memories can be split off from consciousness. Some people also believe that these forgotten memories influence not only thoughts and behaviors, but also physiological processes and that these memories can be retrieved many years later with very little distortion. Other psychologists don’t believe this stating that there’s little evidence to suggest that memories of trauma obey different psychological laws than memories of non-traumatic events. It should also be noted that therapies designed to bring about repressed or dissociated memories from trauma might actually create false memories of trauma. When a person cannot remember an event, and then suddenly with the help of a hypnotherapist they can; they are more likely to make things up and also to have memory distortion.
There has been research done that shows that false memories can indeed be planted by using lists of words. For instance, if given the list violin, viola, cello, the individual might also think that they read the word bass as well. Stringed instruments are the group of interest, so knowing this; one might automatically and falsely include a word such as bass that was not originally included in the group. The research above also shows that not only can you implant false memories for words, but also for entire episodes as well (Loftus, 2001). The characteristics that describe most abductees-dissociation, not being able to tell the difference between what is real and what is fantasy, etc are more likely to develop false memories.
Most people would consider the notion of aliens and abductions to be crazy, and indicative of a person with mental instability. However, there is no research that validates this claim. Though their fascination with aliens and belief that they’ve been abducted and experimented on by them seems completely ludicrous; there is currently no strong supporting evidence that they are mentally unstable.
The most common personality type that reports alien abduction stories is one that is vulnerable to fantasy proneness. Newman and Baumeister argue that fantasy proneness might be a significant predisposing factor (Newman and Baumeister, 1996). Abductees tend to believe in paranormal and other unusual beliefs in addition to extraterrestrials (Parnell & Sprinkle, 1990; Ring & Rosing, 1990). Another part of alien abduction stories is the creation of false memories. A large number of alien abduction stories have manufactured with the help of hypnosis; people who are more prone to fantasy are predisposed to engage in highly imaginative activities, and are also more likely to create pseudo memories of any kind. Spanos, Menary, Gabora, DuBreuil, and Dewhirst (1991) found that fantasy prone people were more likely to report having lived a past life when they were encouraged to do so following a hypnotic regression. This shows that fantasy prone people are also more susceptible to suggestion and that they are more than likely blindly following an authority figure.
Fantasy prone people are more likely than not to believe in other paranormal phenomena besides the belief in aliens and alien abductions. Other paranormal phenomena would include the belief in possessing psychic powers, doors opening and closing of their own accord and also lights blinking on and off (Steiger, 1988). Ring and Rosing (1990) found that abductees generally report more abuse in childhood; which could be reason for their fantasy proneness. One interpretation of this could be that they would rather be anywhere but their present place. Fantasy prone people are also more likely to report that they often spent time in a make believe world as a child. This shows that even in childhood, abductees felt the need to escape. Whatever they were dealing with in their life might have seemed too great to deal with, so they created a place that felt safe to them that they could escape to.
Knowing that it is possible to whole-heartedly believe in a false memory has to involve some kind of maintenance or validation to uphold these memories. A lot of people are confident in their belief of aliens and abductions which leads some to believe that high confidence in turn leads to high accuracy. Research has shown that this is not true (Deffenbacher, 1980; Wells & Murray, 1984). Social factors also have an effect on one’s confidence in their belief. Most people like to be correct and some tend to avoid people and groups who do not validate their claims. Researchers Luus and Wells (1994) showed that a witness’s confidence in an inaccurate claim can be artificially affirmed or denied depending on whether or not the witness is told that another witness picked the same or different person from a line up. This shows that social groups are important and can certainly have an impact on the way that we think and process information.
Humans seek confirmation in their beliefs, we like to part of groups comprised of like-minded people. We tend to surround ourselves with people who believe in the same things. This helps to maintain our beliefs especially when confronted with skepticism. Finding other individuals who believe in aliens and that they too have been abducted them would maintain ones abduction memories. When people join support groups, they feel more comfortable talking about their experiences and learning about other people’s experiences as well. Chances are, that when in the safety of a support group; individuals are less likely to face opposition and ridicule. Support groups for alien abductees in a sense lulls the group members into a false sense of security. Most likely, no one there would tell them that they are crazy or otherwise shun them. The validation of support groups solidifies our beliefs.
There seems to be a very controversial connection between alien abduction stories and “recovered” memories of childhood sexual abuse (Ross and Newby, 2002). Repression seems to be the key in both of these occurrences. Both abduction stories and memories of childhood sexual abuse are retrieved with the help of a professional who believes that memories are true and accurate. A professional person is probably viewed as someone who is in authority. People tend to trust authority figures. This idea strengthens the validity of the correspondence bias. People are more likely to believe what their therapist tells them regarding their “recovered memories”.
Hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and optical illusions are just a few factors that can contribute to the alien abduction phenomena. I think that hallucinations are sometimes a natural part of sleep but only become troublesome when people have repeated inabilities to distinguish between reality and a hallucination. It is normal for children to see things that aren’t there- especially at night. Children usually conjure up imaginary friends as well. These are all normal aspects of childhood. It is also harder for children to be able to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. This ability usually isn’t present until the child is between the ages of eight and ten (Sagan, 107). Imaginary friends and seeing figures in the dark are a bit more unusual when they happen in adulthood. Many abductees have reported seeing aliens in their childhood, although it should be noted that many children see these imaginary creatures.
The phenomenon that some people choose to call alien abduction could in fact be understood as sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is experienced by many people; it usually occurs during an in between phase of sleep where the individual isn’t fully awake nor are they completely sleep (Sagan, 109). Sleep paralysis is most commonly characterized by a quickening of the heartbeat, a feeling of a weight on the chest (as if something is sitting or lying on you), breathing is labored. All of these possible symptoms of sleep paralysis are coupled with auditory or visual hallucinations of people, demons, ghosts, animals, or birds (Sagan, 109). Robert Baker, a psychologist from the University of Kentucky believes that sometimes there is a marked sexual component to the hallucinations, and that these sleep disturbances are behind most if not all of alien abduction accounts.
Humans sometimes see things that aren’t accurate representations of what we are looking at. For instance, we might see this figure
Photograph of Kanizsa Triangle created by Fibonacci, via Wikimedia Commons
and automatically fill in the blank spaces to make a triangle. One reason that we do this is to make sense of the world. The human mind is good at making shapes and recognizing similar patterns. This is also probably the reasoning for seeing the man on the moon. Things become easier to understand when they can be put into categories and in models that represent something that is familiar to us. Most of the time, humans see things that we expect to see. An example of this is would be:
Upon initially reading this, most people don’t notice that the word “the” is written twice. Your brain sometimes auto corrects these types of things. We wouldn’t expect to see words repeated in a sentence (Kida, 103). This is one reason why it is a good idea to have someone else look over things that you have written. They are more likely to catch a grammatical error like the one described above.
Thomas Kida also notes “expectations can lead to hallucinations” (Kida, 103). People expect to see something so they do. Superstitious individuals who believe in having seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror or that bad things happen on Friday the 13th are great examples of allowing expectations to lead to hallucinations. Some people believe whole heartedly in the idea that on Friday the 13th, something bad is more likely to happen on this day than any other. They look everywhere for validation for these claims much in the same way that an individual who believes that they have been abducted will seek out support and other people who will confirm their claim. When they go to the coffee shop and the barista tells them that they’ve just sold the last vanilla scone, the superstitious person who believes in bad luck especially on Friday the 13th will automatically assume that whatever troubles they have that day will be because of Friday the 13th.
B. Culture and Alien Abductions
There seems to be a difference between the number of cases of alien abductions reported by countries considered to be collectivistic versus individualistic. UFO stories are more common in western and westernized countries- United States and the United Kingdom. However, (Hall; McLeod et al.) assert that alien abduction stories are no longer culture specific because there are more and more UFO stories being reported in other parts of the world besides the United States and the United Kingdom. Brazil makes up 7.8% of the alien abduction stories, the US reports 11.39%. Brazil is a collectivistic country whereas the US is an individualistic country valuing autonomy and independence. Brazil is the first known collectivistic country to report people experiencing alien abductions.
According to Randles (1988) “abduction is a product of the mind of Western white people” Randles also stated that abductions seem to be confined to individualistic societies where the burden of selfhood is greatest. Bullard (1987a) observed that there were no reports of alien abductions in Asia and Africa. It should be noted that these two countries are considered to be collectivistic. There is not great societal pressure for one to distinguish themselves or to stand out and be different. Collectivistic cultures do what is good for the whole group. That is what is most important. Unity among the group is what is valued rather than stressing the importance of individuality. In predominately western cultures, individuality is considered to be the norm. Being able to stand on your own two feet and to support yourself is what is valued in an individualistic culture. Having a positive self-image and engaging in activities that promote self-advancement are seen as good qualities to possess.
Most likely it is our cultural focus on individuality that is to blame for the abundance in alien abduction reports. The word blame is used because many researchers suggest that that the reason for so many alien abduction reports in Western countries is because these so called “abductees” are really just escaping the self. Baumeister (1989) believes that masochistic fantasies and desires are derived from a motivation to escape from self-awareness and identity. This is a response mechanism to stresses, threats, and burdens that can be experienced in an individualistic culture. Sometimes the demands put on the individual can be too great and to cope with this they create fantasy worlds. The role of culture has a large effect on an individual’s outlook on the world, and also the things that deem to be important. There was a time when it was believed that aliens came from Mars; after a shift in thinking, people began to believe that aliens came from Venus instead. This statement suggests that the alien abduction stories can adjust to the cultural standards of belief at that time.
The role that the hypnotist plays seems to have a large effect on alien abduction stories. A lot of research shows that the hypnotist proves invaluable when looking at the construction of alien abduction stories. Most people already believe in aliens and other forms of paranormal phenomena when they go to their hypnotherapy session. The hypnotherapist is probably seen as an authority figure, which makes their opinion seem more important and more likely to be accurate. According to (Spanos, 1986) hints and cues can affect hypnotic subjects and lead them to fulfill hypnotists’ expectations. Spanos, Menary, Gabora, DuBreuil, and Dewhirst (1991) showed how suggestible hypnotherapy can be. They instructed their participants to “regress beyond birth to a previous life” with the help of hypnosis. Participants were led to believe that the hypnotist had expectations about their past lives (that they were of the opposite sex or a child abuse victim). Participants incorporated these expectations into their memories of past lives more than the participants did who received neutral instructions that weren’t leading.
However, the problems that can arise from using a hypnotist to construct alien abduction stories are quite extensive. Hypnosis has developed a stigma for being leading and suggestible. Testimonies that are derived using hypnosis are not allowed in courts. Hypnosis is also the most common way that abduction stories “recovered”. Shermer says that it is not possible to “recover” memories. He goes on to say that “memory is a complex phenomenon involving distortions, deletions, additions, and sometimes complete fabrication” (Shermer, 2002). In psychology, this is referred to as confabulation; which is the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
By Cumulus via Wikimedia Commons
In a lot of abduction stories, the individual will describe the aliens as being large coupled with feelings of uncertainty and fear. People who believe that they have been abducted usually have also reported being abused in some way as a child. This could mean that for the “abductees”, the largeness of the aliens represented adult figures in their life. Adults were seen as powerful and their actions were not always understood. This would be especially true of the individuals who reported child abuse memories. Their encounters with the adults in their lives were perhaps uncertain and filled with fear and confusion. Newman and Baumeister have suggested that the reason that people come up with abduction stories is because they are trying to escape from themselves. There might be some truth to this statement. By creating a story such as being abducted by aliens, which seems so ludicrous and far removed from anything that would be considered likely to happen; these individuals are creating their own version of reality. One that perhaps isn’t as scary as the one where adults abuse them rather than take care of them.
Another possible meaning of alien abduction stories, and also why they have become so popular lately is that they reflect what is going on in our society. The belief in aliens could represent a manifestation of a person’s deepest and darkest fears. A fear of loss of control and unpredictability in one’s life. Also, the basic story of alien abductions are changing as well. The stories that were told in the 1950’s and 1960’s were strikingly different. Earlier alien abduction stories were depicted by benevolent beings that were considered to be all knowing and supportive (Spence, 1996). “None of these early contactees were kidnapped or assaulted, as today’s abductees claim to have been” Newman and Baumeister assert. The reasoning for the differences could be linked to political and cultural conditions of that time (Spence, 1996). The political climate in the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by a “strong sense of certainty about the future and the reassuring feeling that America was still the strongest nation on Earth” (Spence, 1996).
The present abduction stories are rife with kidnappings, and probing medical examinations, missing time, etc. Our cultural and political climates are much different than they were 50 to 60 years ago. The stories depict a more ominous setting, helplessness, and a loss of identity (Spence, 1996). Today, we stand on shaky ground. We are at war, have a declining economy, have seen an increase in poverty, etc. The future is now filled with more uncertainty than it was in previous years and this is making itself present the abundance of abduction stories that are now infused with kidnappings and violence rather than friendliness and an all knowing being.
Another possible reason for the shift in the typical alien abduction story could be that during the 1950s and 1960, these decades were marked by a more strict society, and Christian values were still a strong influence. This is not to say that our society now is not still Christian based, it is for the most part, but now we see more division between church and state. This time period was also after World War II, which brought a more progressive way of thinking to the United States. The benevolence that people experienced with the aliens during their abductions could also be that there was an increase in jobs after the war, resurgence and an attitude of hope and prosperity. There were more people with positive outlooks on life. For the most part, things were going well.
For some people, life is not as certain now and there is also a division between church and state. The United States is more of a melting pot. The face of the typical American is changing. There are more people from other countries here now; there are a variety of languages spoken here, and with their culture, come their religious beliefs as well. This conglomerate mix of people can also create a lot of internal struggle for some people and I think that this is evident in the change in the typical alien abduction story.
For some people, the belief in aliens could be a type of coping mechanism. Adults can’t usually get away with using the same coping mechanisms that they once could during childhood, so they create new ones and put them into a different context. One that is more appropriate for adulthood. They might do this by recovering their “repressed” memories of alien abductions. They use their imagination to express what they feel they cannot express in real everyday life. Individuals who claim to have been abducted appear to be experiencing a struggle for self-control. In their encounters with aliens, they are immobilized, experimented on; the beings are seen as large and foreboding, etc. These are also characteristic feelings of people who report childhood sexual abuse. Rather than their parents or whoever abused them as a child being the large and dominating figure in their life, this figure is replaced with an alien who performs sexually probing tests on them and renders them immobile. This seems like a highly improbable story, but it is real to the people who think they experience it. Probably the reason why most alien abduction memories are recovered using hypnoregression is because hypnoregression opens up the subconscious mind so that the imagination is open, unhindered, and free.
First memories of a child can also have bearing on their belief in aliens and alien abductions in their adult life. If someone reports that the first memory that they can recall is of them hiding somewhere, this could mean that they are fearful of the world, and possibly that their parents were not always there to take care of them consistently. On the other hand, if someone said that their first memory was of them playing a game of hide and seek with their friends, this could mean that they are more comfortable in their environment and they don’t feel the need to hide from others. However, remembered first memories change all of the time. They usually change based on current worldview. The memory of hide and seek suggests a feeling of security while the other does not. Memories are important because they help to explain current thought patterns and stability.
Individuals who think that they have been abducted by aliens might in fact just have a problem with critical thinking. Critical thinking is the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. Perhaps these individuals aren’t good at arriving at logical conclusions. Instead of being able to distinguish between what is real and what is not, some people concoct stories that fit with the reality that they perceive to be real. When it is suggested to them by their hypnotherapist that their “recovered” memories of childhood abuse might actually be linked to their abduction experience; most people only conclude that this information is coming from a figure of authority and so it must be accurate. But what they’re not doing is taking the information and actively analyzing it for themselves. To them, the information that they have
just been presented with makes sense so they seek out other people to confirm their beliefs. One possibility for this could be that these people are looking for things that aren’t there to help them understand a problem that they’re having. Or perhaps they’re trying to answer a question that is not being consciously asked. For instance, when an “abductee” experiences bright lights, the inability to move, seeing strange grey humanoid figures, etc- instead of thinking that these could be symptoms of sleep paralysis most of these people instead choose to believe that they’ve been abducted by aliens. These beliefs are only strengthened by the support of their hypnotherapists.
By Hedda Gabbler via Wikimedia Commons
It is still not clearly understood why some people claim to have been abducted by aliens, but there are many guesses as to why this could be. They range from temporal lobe stimulation, a connection with childhood abuse, a desire to escape from the self. All of these theories have merit, but there isn’t one that completely explains this phenomenon. Researchers are still uncertain as to what the cause could be for a belief in aliens. However, declaring a belief in aliens does not label you as a crazy person. So it would appear as though seemingly normal people can have an alien experience.
Banaji, M. & Kihlstrom, J. The ordinary nature of alien abduction memories. 132-135
Baumeister, Roy & Newman, L. (1996). Toward an explanation of the ufo abduction phenomenon: hypnotic elaboration, extraterrestrial sadomasochism, and spurious memories. Psychological Inquiry, 7(2), 99-126
Baumeister, R. & Newman, L. (1996). Not just another false memory: further thoughts on the ufo abduction phenomenon. Psychological Inquiry, 7(2) 185-197
Clancy, S., McNally, R., Schacter, D., Lenzenweger, M., & Pitman, R. (2002). Memory distortion in people reporting abduction by aliens. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111(3), 455-461. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.111.3.455.
Clancy, S., McNally, R., Lasko, N., Lenzenweger, M., Macklin, M., Orr, S., & Pitman, R. (2004). Psychophysiological responding during script-driven imagery in people reporting abduction by space aliens. Psychological Science, 15(7), 493-496
Clancy, S. (2005). Abducted: how people come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens
Clark, S. & Loftus, E. The construction of space alien abduction memories 140-143
French, C & Holden, K. (2002). Alien abduction experiences: some clues from neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 7(3), 163-178
Kida, T. (2006).
Don’t Believe Everything You Think: 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking.
Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books
Lynn, S. & Kirsch, I. Alleged alien abductions: False memories, hypnosis, and fantasy proneness. 151-155
McNally, R.(2003). Recovering memories of trauma: a view from the laboratory. 12(1), 32-35
Newby, I. & Ross, M. Distinguishing memory from fantasy. 173-176
Sagan, C. (1996).
The Demon Haunted World.
New York: Random House Publishing Group.
Shermer, M (2002).
Why People Believe Weird Things
. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Spence, D. Abduction tales as metaphors. 177-179
Strube, M. The truth is out there. 181-184
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"