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Abductions Aren’t So Out Of The World                                                                                         9

                    Some scientific

              explanations for alien

            abduction that aren’t so

                  out of this world

                      The Conversation

          Accounts of mysterious flashing lights in the
          sky, spacecrafts and encounters with “real”
          aliens reflect high levels of public interest in
          UFOs and the belief that there is “something out
          there”. However, many psychologists are less
          convinced, and think they can provide more
          down-to-earth, scientific explanations.
                 Belief in aliens has increased steadily
          since the birth of modern alien research in the
          1940s and 1950s, following the news
          surrounding a classified US military project at
          Roswell Air Force Base, New Mexico. Surveys
          in Western cultures estimated belief in aliens to
          be as high as 50% in 2015. And despite the fact
          that it is considered rare, a significant number of  personality characteristics.              move, a feeling of fear or dread, and the sense
          people also believe they have experienced alien        Several studies report that experiencers  of another presence – perhaps evil or
          abduction.                                      do not typically differ from non-experiencers on  malevolent – are common symptoms.  Also
                 Present day awareness of alien           objective psychopathological measures – those  common are a feeling of pressure on the chest
          abduction dates to the 1961 case of Betty and   that assess psychological well-being and       and difficulty breathing, and of being held or
          Barney Hill, who witnessed odd lights and       adjustment – and have no history of mental     restricted to a lying position: most sleep
          experienced “missing time” and “lost            instability. However, one characteristic that is  paralysis attacks occur while the individual is
          memories” while driving.  The reported          associated with abduction experiences is a     lying on their back.
          consequences of abduction are often loss of     proclivity for fantasy.                                Sceptic Michael Shermer once collapsed
          memory, missing time, and problems such as             Mixed evidence supports the theory that  from sleep deprivation following an 83-hour
          sickness, sleepwalking, nightmares and          fantasy-prone people engage in elaborate       bike race and his support team rushed to his aid.
          psychological    trauma.   Following    their   imaginings and often confuse fantasy with      Shermer was caught in a “waking dream” and
          experience, Betty and Barney experienced        reality.  There are also other psychological   so perceived them as aliens from the 1960s
          psychological problems and subsequently         explanations, such as dissociation – where an  television series The Invaders. It also explains
          sought therapy.                                 individual’s mental processes detach from each  some ghost sightings, such as the “night hag”,
                 Although the accuracy of the numbers is  other and from reality, often in response to   often experienced by those who suffer from
          questioned, a poll by the Roper Center for      extreme or stressful life events.  A tendency  sleep paralysis.
          Public Opinion Research conducted 30 years      towards being fantasy-prone and dissociation           Temporal lobe sensitivity is a theory that
          after this account said that around 3.7m        has been linked in studies to childhood trauma  suggests the temporal lobes of some people’s
          Americans believed that they too had            and hypnotic suggestibility.                   brains are more vulnerable to influence from
          experienced alien abduction.                           Psychologists argue that hypnosis       low-level magnetic frequencies. Michael
                 Sceptics argue that alien-related        encourages the creation and recall of detailed  Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian
          encounters are merely hoaxes created for        fantasies. For example, Betty and Barney Hill’s  University in Canada, is among those who
          financial gain or social advantage. Perhaps     account was typical of reported alien          believes that increased temporal lobe activity
          Roswell is the most famous example. Initial     encounters:    medical    examinations     or  can explain paranormal experiences such as
          reports from the 1940s left sufficient gaps of  procedures, communication with alien captors,  alien abduction. His theory is that magnetic
          explanation for Ray Santilli to release in 1995  a powerful, mystical feeling, tours of spaceships  fields stimulate the temporal lobes, resulting in
          what he claimed was film footage showing an     and journeys to other planets before being     hallucinatory experiences similar to those
          alien autopsy from the time, further confusing  returned to the car. And it was under hypnosis  reported by alien abductees.
          the issue. He later admitted it was a hoax. The  that  these  “missing    memories”     were           None of this is to say that many people
          incident sparked controversy and prompted       “recovered”.                                   who believe they have experienced alien
          claims that an alien craft had crash-landed in the     It’s for these reasons that it’s believed  abduction are liars, merely that their accounts
          New Mexico desert and that US authorities       alien abduction experiences may arise from a   and experiences can be explained through
          were involved in a cover-up.                    combination of personality characteristics and  recourse to theories with a scientific basis.
                 The theory that alien abductions are     susceptibility to false memories.              There are many logical, plausible scientific
          hoaxes may be true in a few cases, but there is                                                explanations, none of which rely upon the
          no reason to assume that the majority of        Brain sensitivity                              existence of aliens. However, it should also be
          “experiencers” are frauds. In fact, psychologists                                              noted that not all reported alien abduction
          have come up with a number of plausible,        Studies suggest that neuropsychological        experiences can be easily explained by any of
          scientific explanations for people’s supposed   theories, particularly sleep paralysis and     these scientific theories – and this throws up
          alien encounters.                               temporal lobe sensitivity, also could explain  many more questions.[]

                                                          claims of alien abduction.
          Personality traits                                     Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being      For The Best Radio Programming
                                                          conscious but unable to move, which occurs                       From the
          One explanation is that when people believe     when a person passes between stages of                 World of the Paranormal
          they have had an experience of alien abduction,  wakefulness and sleep.                                              To
          they have misinterpreted, distorted and                Experiencers’       claims       share
          conflated real and imagined events. Hence,      characteristics with sleep paralysis: a sense of    The Science of Parapsychology
          sceptics of alien encounters explain them away  being awake, not dreaming, and realistic                      24/7/265 Visit
          in terms of psychological processes and         perceptions of the environment. The inability to    
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