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The Psychology and Neuroscience of Alien Abduction

By Vaughan in Culture
Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 06:26:14 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

If the figures are to be believed, up to 4 million people have been abducted by aliens in the US, with many millions more captured world wide. Although the existence of human hungry aliens might be impossible to disprove per se, it is unlikely that extra-terrestrials could manage such mass kidnappings without being commonly noticed. This suggests that there are many people who falsely believe they have been seized by creatures from outer-space, perhaps after experiencing unusual and bizarre phenomena. The purpose of this article is to communicate some of the recent research in psychology and neuroscience that gives us some clues as to how and why these experiences and beliefs occur.

Some of the many thousands of people who claim to have been abducted are likely to be fortune seekers, bar-room braggers, publicity hounds and maybe even some genuine abductees. Yet with the high numbers of people reporting abductions, many of the people who believe they have been captured will likely have been mistaken.

Sleep paralysis
Awareness during sleep paralysis is a common explanation for this confusion, most probably as abduction experiences and conscious sleep paralysis attacks often share many of the same features, such as waking whilst unable to move, feelings of fear, dread or unease and a feeling of pressure on the body. Normal sleep paralysis happens when the body enters the REM stage of the sleep cycle. The brain stem blocks movement signals that would normally travel from the brain to the muscles, probably to stop us carrying out the movements we dream about doing. The frightening aspect of this occurs when a sleeper awakens, becomes conscious, but who's movement control is not reinstated by the brain. This state can also be accompanied by what are known as 'hypnopompic' hallucinations which occur naturally to many people whilst awakening. These hallucinations can take the form of voices, lights, figures or any number of strange bodily sensations. It is little wonder that when combined with fearful paralysis such uncanny experiences might be interpreted as alien in origin.

Temporal lobe disturbance
Another commonly cited source of internal spookiness are the temporal lobes of the brain. Electrical stimulation of the surface of the temporal lobes (usually done on an awake patient when they are undergoing brain surgery) can produce unusual auditory sensations. Similarly, Michael Persinger, a Canadian scientist, has produced strange sensations in his research participants by using magnets to influence temporal lobe function from outside the skull. Such sensations have included feelings of a 'presence', disorientation and fear. It would seem unlikely that a possible abductee would fail to notice if someone placed large magnets near his or her head (or even that they were subject to brain surgery !) before the 'abduction' experience. However, similar effects can be caused by epileptic or similar seizures in the temporal lobes. Many epilepsy sufferers who have temporal lobe seizures report mystical experiences, missing time, out of body feelings or even strange smells or 'atmospheres' prior to, during or after a seizure. It must be remembered that not all forms of epilepsy cause dramatic shaking of the body, and many simply result in brief lapses of consciousness or experiences such as those noted above. This leads us to wonder whether disturbances in the temporal lobes may also contribute to experiences which some people may interpret as an alien abduction.

Mental illness
Surprisingly, overt mental illness may be one of the least likely explanations for abduction experiences. Research has previously suggested that alien contactees are no more likely to show signs of mental illness than the general population, a finding which has been backed up by several other studies. However, many features once thought present only in mental illness have now been discovered to be held by much of the population. If we look at the healthy population as a whole, these features seem to exist on a continuum with some people reporting anomalous thoughts and feelings or having certain traits more than others. In this vein, it seems people who report themselves as abductees are more likely to endorse unusual experiences, be creative and imaginative, have depressive ideas, be suspicious, have dissociative tendencies and to have suffered childhood trauma. So whilst it seems unlikely that the bizarre experiences reported by most 'abductees' stem from severe mental illness (which can produce equally bizarre and seemingly real experiences) it is certainly the case that this group has characteristics that differentiate them from the general population. It is possible that these dispositions may increase the tendency for them to explain an anomalous experience in terms of alien contact.

Memory distortion
Our memories are often infuriatingly fallible, leading us to forget information we want to remember, remember information we'd rather forget, or often confidently recall something that later turns out to be inaccurate. A recent study has investigated memory distortions in people claiming to have been subject to alien capture. Participants in the study were read several lists of similarly themed words then given tests of recall and recognition. The results of the study indicated that 'abductees' were able to remember words from the original list as well as 'non-abductees', but tended to show a higher rate of recall and recognition for words that were never actually read out in the first place. This suggests that the 'abductees' are more likely to misidentify the source of memories, perhaps suggesting that some elements of their abduction experience may have been culled from other sources such as the media or their own imagination.

This effect may also work retrospectively, allowing people to co-opt previous memories to support an abduction account. An early memory study conducted by Frederic Bartlett demonstrated that we reconstruct memories as they are recalled to create a coherent story. This reconstruction takes place using cultural references that give us a frame on which to hang the various remembered experiences. The alien abduction experience is well known to almost everyone, due to the popularity of shows such as the X-Files, and famous cases which have hit the headlines. This may give some people a cultural framework on which they can hang memories from a bizarre, unusual or traumatic experience. Unfortunately it is even the case that naļve or even unscrupulous therapists may push alien abduction as a explanation for a bizarre experience that a client may have undergone. Many examples of therapists willing to use hypnotic regression, a technique noted for its tendency to cause false recall, to recover abduction experiences can be found on the internet. Perhaps giving an off-the-shelf explanation for strange experiences that the brain is quite capable of generating, without the need for extra-terrestrial intervention.

It would certainly be foolish to discount the possibility of anything unlikely, simply because of its improbability. Yet we must also remember that we can often find explanations for anomalous experience within ourselves. As the old doctor's adage goes 'When you hear hoof beats, start by thinking horses not zebras'. This would seem to work as well for zebras as it does for visitors from outer-space.

Further Reading
This article is largely a summary of two recent scientific papers, both of which are well worth reading if you require further information, detailed references or simply enjoy interesting science.

Holden, K.J. & French, C.C. (2002) Alien abduction experiences: Some clues from neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 7 (3),163-178
Click here for a summary.

Clancy, S.A., McNally, R.J., Schacter, D.L., Lenzenweger, M.F. & Pitman, R.K. (2002) Memory distortion in people reporting abduction by aliens. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111 (3), 455-461
Click here for a summary.


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The Psychology and Neuroscience of Alien Abduction | 67 comments (64 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
The truth is not here (3.00 / 8) (#1)
by imrdkl on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 02:04:47 PM EST

but it's a good diversion. +1FP

you've left out the most common explanation (3.66 / 9) (#5)
by semaphore on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 03:53:19 PM EST

seeking attention. in a mundane world you need something more interesting than what you had for dinner or what what was on tv last night. and who's going to say that you're bullshitting when it's on tv all the time?

and btw the figure 4 million is bullshit. in fact on average only three people per week are abducted. i should know, i've been up twelve times this year so far ...

"you want enlightenment? stare into the sun."

sleep paralysis is fun (3.83 / 6) (#6)
by zephc on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 04:19:48 PM EST

I've become conscious several times while waking up, and I think it's FUN! Your mind is still half asleep, and you think the part of you that wont move is paralyzed (which it is)... it's really a trip.  I'm sure it would suck if it were for more than a few minutes.  the best thing to do is just go back to sleep and wake up again, full this time.  Trying to move your arms, or even flex your muscles, is useless, but I find it fun trying to do so anyway.  Color me weird =P

I agree (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by tornadron on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 05:05:29 PM EST

I've experienced this sort of thing every few months over the past year or two...I never realized what exactly was happening but thought nothing of it since I seemed fine the next morning. The one time it did freak me out a little was when I felt like something had actually been pushing against my chest and I could not open my eyes. but according to the link in the article that isn't uncommon with sleep paralysis...good to know :)

[ Parent ]
Pressure on the chest (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by pyro9 on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 07:32:40 PM EST

I've had the experiance a few times, but since I knew what it was, I was able to make some calm observations.

As far as I could tell (as I came out of it), the pressure sensation is actually the weight of your body not being supported by the muscles surrounding your ribs.

If you lie down, and consciously try to exhale by simply relaxing the musccles you use to breathe, you;ll probably see what I mean.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
"Me too" (4.66 / 9) (#11)
by Meatbomb on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 07:13:20 PM EST

I've become conscious several times while waking up...

I become conscious every time I wake up. If you ever wake up and find yourself still unconscious, I suggest you have mistaken "waking up" for "still being asleep". :P


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
maybe not so much fun (4.33 / 3) (#16)
by AlephNull on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:20:31 PM EST

I've experienced it from time to time over the years (not much lately though). I've understood what it was (mind awake, body asleep), but i've never had the courage to go with the flow and drift back to sleep. I have always struggled against it to fully wake up and, boy, it takes a lot of effort.

Once i (think i) managed to move my neck a little and my head just flopped to one side (i was asleep in an armchair) but i still remained unable to move and was stuck will my head uncomfortably flopped over my shoulder.

Interestingly, i have only ever experienced Sleep Paralysis whilst on board an alien space craft. Weird or what? ;-)

Political correctness is doubleplusungood.
[ Parent ]

Sleep paralysis (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by texchanchan on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:17:00 PM EST

I thought it sucked when I had episodes of sleep paralysis back when I was young. Can't wake up, can't move, can't breathe, can't make a noise to wake up somebody else to wake you up.

However, once it did occur when I was napping on the couch and I thought my brother came in the room and talked uncharacteristically aggressively. Turned out he was in his room the whole time. It was imaginary; but not like a dream, like reality. I can see how somebody unsophisticated, or just ignorant of their own brain's capabilities, could mistake this kind of thing for real incidents.

[ Parent ]

me too me too (2.00 / 1) (#48)
by shrubbery on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 12:20:48 PM EST

I've only had this happen twice in my life and they were awhile ago but I found it a bit disconcerting but definately fascinating. I didn't know what "sleep paralysis" was but actually figured it out while doing it.

I remember "waking up" with no vision, no motor control but I had hearing and feeling. I felt sort of like a floating brain in a vat and was thinking how absolutely interesting it was thinking outloud consciously but unable to speak. I started singing in my head, thinking about what I did yesterday to "test" my mind, and finally trying to move. The wierdest part was I could feel the air going in and out of my nose. The pattern was so calm, so evening spaced compared to awake-breathing; I couldn't control my breathing at all. Then I started trying to control my limbs and it completely failed. I remember thinking, "my body must still be asleep, must... re-establish neurraaal signals" in a cheesy William Shatner voice (inside my head, I had a lot of fun being a floating brain). Finally after what seemed to be about 2 or 3 minutes, I violently twitched and stubbed my foot into the side wall. "Woah, cooool."

[ Parent ]

Yeah, I feel kind of wierd agreeing with you, but. (none / 0) (#51)
by lonemarauder on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 02:45:03 PM EST

I've experienced sleep paralysis quite a few times, and I usually enjoy it. I have had a few scary episodes, but the fear passes as soon as I regain full awareness.

I've never been abducted by a UFO, however.

[ Parent ]
It happens to me around once a month. (1.00 / 1) (#62)
by Wotan on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 08:10:28 PM EST

Extremely unpleasant when you are feeling stuffy because a blanket is over your mouth. You feel like you are going to suffocate before you wake up.

I've found that with a concerted effort I can often make a noise, a faint "nnnnnng nnnnnnng" sound, and I've taught my girlfriend to shake me whenever she hears it. Sometimes you can wake yourself by an act of will. The sensation is similar to keeping yourself awake when sleep-deprived (a common condition for me).

Only once did I experience a hallucination. There was a large poisonous insect perched on my forearm, preparing to strike, and nothing I could do. Then snap, I awoke in exactly the same position and no bug.

[ Parent ]

emergency (none / 0) (#66)
by pyro9 on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 06:03:27 PM EST

If it's any consolation, if you are ever in actual danget of suffocation, you will either wake up fully, or your body will adjust itself long before any real harm occurs.

That probably doesn't make it feel any better though :-(

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Interesting (4.60 / 5) (#8)
by TheophileEscargot on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 05:29:03 PM EST

Nice article. UFO sightings themselves are an interesting phenomenon, regardless of what you think of their origin.

Can't remember the exact book, but I think it was Jenny Randles also did an interesting study comparing UFO sightings to "space junk" sightings: of orbital debris burning up in the atmosphere, i.e. genuine spacecraft entering the atmosphere. The real spacecraft tend to be reported by thousands of people independently, as you;d expect since high objects are visible over vast areas. "UFO" sightings tend to be reported by one person or group only. This tends to suggest that UFOs are not real physical objects.

The same author also made some interesting observations on the way the experiences spread. Originally there was regional diversity in alien experiences, with different types of aliens being seen in different countries, but the sightings became more standardized over the years; possibly due to the media "teaching" what aliens should look like. This tends to suggest that there is a strong social component to these experiences, not just a simple biochemical explanation.
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death

sighting vs. abduction (none / 0) (#14)
by KiTaSuMbA on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 07:34:49 PM EST

the article discuss "more probable explanations" for the cases of alien abduction, not sighting a UFO or an alien being. You have to agree that the former is a lot more dramatic and people firmly claiming that they had such an experience been taken as madmen than the latter. As far as the UFO sighting goes, most cases are obvious mistakes, some are plain jokes and few remain unexplained.
It's an interesting field but the article touches another...

There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
Group sightings (3.75 / 4) (#9)
by sludge on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 06:35:00 PM EST

None of these items attempt to explain events recollectable by more than one person.

I've heard people mention "Group hallucination" before, but it's always in some tongue-in-cheek manner. Is this something that can actually be used to assist explanation of unclear events?
Hiring in the Vancouver, British Columbia area

Not without creating even more problems ... (3.66 / 6) (#10)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 06:53:38 PM EST

... than the idea of group hypnosis solves - if people are able to collectively hallucinate, what does that say about telepathy, and what does that say about reality in general?

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
Group trippin', man. (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by DM on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:02:12 PM EST

It's been noted that people have seen UFO's for a long time, and what they reported seeing was consistent with the technology of the day.  First it was strange zeppelins, then aircraft, then spacecraft.  People have for centuries been accosted by devils, witches, monsters, and lately, grey aliens.

Group hallucinations wouldn't be so much about telepathy as expectation and suggestion, maybe toss in a little group hysteria and you have makings for small groups or individuals to see perhaps a common phenomenon, and embellish it based on their subconscious expectations until it's a full-fledged Andromedian Landing Craft.  Are they making it up?  Not really.  They truly believe what they "saw", because you can count on your senses 99% of the time.

Granted, it doesn't explain some of the UFO sightings, but those can be easily explained by top secret government projects involving highly advanced reverse-engineered alien technology. ;-)
Silence all the songbirds, stilled by the killing frost...
[ Parent ]

Natural (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by pyro9 on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:22:32 PM EST

It's been noted that people have seen UFO's for a long time, and what they reported seeing was consistent with the technology of the day.  First it was strange zeppelins, then aircraft, then spacecraft.  People have for centuries been accosted by devils, witches, monsters, and lately, grey aliens.

It's hard to make much of that observation. It is the very nature of language that we explain novel experiances in terms of the familiar.

I imagine that a Roman seeing the space shuttle reentering would describe it as Apollo's chariot or some such, even though space ship would be a better description.

At the same time, it wouldn't surprise me much to find that a group of people with a common cultural background would come up with similar descriptions for similar events, no matter how inaccurate.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Quite True (none / 0) (#20)
by DM on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:57:57 PM EST

What I meant, and was not so clear on, was that people will actually see what they know.  The Roman seeing the shuttle re-enter the atmosphere would likely describe it as Apollo's chariot.  However, in his mind, he probably would actually see the chariot, due to his knowledge and culture that to him is the only plausible explanation for what he's observing.

It's like when you walk by a room, and you swear you see someone or something familiar in there from the corner of your eye, but when you look in, it's just something else out of place like a chair, or some clothes strewn about, or a grey alien waiting to abduct you.
Silence all the songbirds, stilled by the killing frost...
[ Parent ]

Agreed (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by pyro9 on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 11:12:56 AM EST

That is certainly true. The brain itself is a pattern matcher which accepts sensory information as input and categorizes it in terms of previous inputs. It works great for day to day things, but doesn't handle truly novel experiances very well unless trained specifically in 'objective' observation.

Even with training, it can (and does) falter.

It's related to an experiment I did once where I made a syrup of sugar, citric acid, and flavoring esthers common to most citrus fruits but none that were specific to a particular fruit.

Results, each (brave) taster thought it was their (different) favorite fruit.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
I remember reading about an incident ... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:34:50 PM EST

... where a bunch of college students had this little model UFO that could fly. It got away from them one day and created a bit of a stir in one neighborhood until it landed and people saw it was a fake.

The interesting part about this is that many of the people who saw this described it fairly accurately, getting the colors, the flight location and the shape fairly right. I think it's fair to say that this incident indicates that eyewitness testimony in these case may be fairly reliable - although, the interpretation of what they're seeing may be questionable.

The "experiment" would be repeatable, too ...

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
Rockets (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by LJ on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 02:06:31 AM EST

Interesting story. My uncle is responsible for most of the "UFO" sighting in Springfield, OH, back in the late 50s. He got his hands on some model rockets and sent them up at night, naturally scaring all the little old ladies sitting on the porch.

"A feature is a bug the programmers don't want to fix"
[ Parent ]

You're right as far as what they see goes ... (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:26:06 PM EST

... but what I'm trying to figure out is if they're *all* hallucinating, how is it that they all see the same hallucination? Sure, they might have all agreed they saw zeppelins, or aircraft, or dragons, but when they start agreeing on what color it was and what it did and where it went, that's where mass hallucination gets tricky. I think people of a skeptical bent would be better off blaming UFOs on Venus, or weather balloons, or swamp gas (all of which I know *have* been mistaken for UFOs), then to resort to the theory of mass hallucination. Because if people CAN share their hallucinations, it makes me wonder how much of the world we inhabit IS a hallucination.

I'm fairly certain we live in a real world and see it fairly accurately and I'd really rather not go there ...

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
What events? (4.66 / 3) (#18)
by magney on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:22:44 PM EST

There are undoubtedly UFOs, in the sense of unidentified lights in the sky. Group sightings of those are easily enough explainable by a group genuinely seeing some not-readily-explicable light in the sky, followed by a group consensus that what they saw was an alien spacecraft.

It's if the group "sighting" was more than a light in the sky that things get more interesting. But until I participate in such a thing, or see some physical evidence, I won't feel compelled to believe that it really happened.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Sigh, if I just knew why I was left out - (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by mami on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 07:27:56 PM EST

why have the aliens overlooked exactly me and not you?

Next time they take me.. (none / 0) (#19)
by Apuleius on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 08:38:05 PM EST

I'll tell them about your interest.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I can't wait ... (nt) (none / 0) (#24)
by mami on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:25:01 PM EST

[ Parent ]
You left out the most obvious explanation... (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by SIGFPE on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 09:58:49 PM EST

...that fits much of the data very well. It's one that many people don't like to admit because it doesn't fuel funding for research and it's hard for authors to make money publishing books about it. But it's very simple. Those 4 million people were lying.
Some notes of interest. . . (2.53 / 13) (#22)
by Fantastic Lad on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:03:41 PM EST

1. The Nuts n' Bolts alien (non-military) UFO is, according to my reading, not real. The 'real' things being what are described as 3d projections from a 4 dimensional reality, where time works very differently.

2. Actual abductions, if they are done right, happen in a split second and leave no trace on memory. Many, many more people than one might realize, including the abductees themselves, have been taken. --Abductees are taken, manipulated upon in another state of reality and time, and then returned in the same instant of our 'time'. Curiously, only when things go wrong is the victim aware of the abduction while it is taking place. Even memories of the abduction are designed not to raise after the fact, though they tend to over time and after enough instances. In some cases, people are put back in a different physical orientation than when they left, (with their head at the wrong end of the bed, or with their clothes on backwards, etc.), and in some extreme cases, people are returned out of sync with the instant they left, being returned a few seconds or even minutes before or after the moment when they were taken. In very rare cases, the victim has been returned to a point in 'time' a couple of years before the event. In such cases, the victim has gone mad.

3. While they do happen, most abductions are for the most part not physical in nature, (weird concept, eh?). Instead, what more commonly happens is that either a) the soul-matrix is removed from the body, or a copy of the soul-matrix is made and worked upon.

4. When under hypnosis, victims often have one or more misleading cover memories implanted for searchers to dig through before the meat of the real event is found. There is some detailed reading material available on the studies which has been done.

5. Abductions are performed for many reasons. Among them: a) Programming and 'downloading' of information and memories from 'agents' (susceptible persons who are deposited into scenarios in order to negatively influence activities on Earth. b) Genetics manipulation in preparation for the 'big bang' cross over. c) Interference with souled individuals, (as opposed to the human-reaction machines which make up as much as 1/4 of the population), to influence them in numerous ways.

Why? Good question.

The world is ending its current cycle folks, and there is a great deal at stake. The bible is propaganda and was heavily influenced by alien intelligence. As the signs of the apocalypse pop up one after the other, (as they have been; plagues, flooding, war, anti-christs, "Raising armies on every shore, turning man against his brother until man is no more", etc.), they have been made to line up with the scriptures. --Which is no big deal for aliens where time travel is no more difficult than walking across a room is for us. But for the ignorant cattle humanity is, this throws the several billion or so religious cultists into a fervor of pre-programmed reactions which will benefit certain groups.

What those benefits are (with some debate), are understood to a degree, so I won't go into that now. Some of the following items, however, which are generally agreed upon by virtually all those in the know, raise some points of interest. . .

When one dies, the soul travels to a plane of reality where time and matter are entirely at the whim of the consciousness. A soul often enters a time of sleep or dreaming before reawakening to review the lessons learned from the recently lived life, after which new directions can be determined for the next life. I was reading one account where a recently deceased man had chosen to live in his own recreation of a 1940's Chicago neighborhood, and to forget that it was a recreation. When a soul is very deeply retreated into such dreaming, it becomes the 'duty' of friends to enter it and try to coax the soul out so that the game of existence can continue.

Souls at our level of existence spend exactly one half of their 'time' living physicals lives and the other half living as ephemeral beings.

Now the problem is that there are also beings which feed on negative emotion. --One of the reasons humanity is so plagued with misery as it is. According to some schools of thought on the subject, if people create for themselves after death personal hells in which to torment themselves, the negative energy given off by them becomes an excellent food source.

Now this is just a theory in progress as far as I am concerned, because there also exists the strong possibility that recently departed souls are protected from this kind of feeding. Nonetheless, with all the religious programming received by people at our level of reality, when they die, is is possible that they may send themselves to a version of Hell in which they might become powerful food sources of negative energy. But this is clunky thinking where I am still sketchy on several of the details. More questions, meditation required!

Now beyond that. . , among the things which are more immediate in the living realm where the alien presence is focusing its agenda. . ,

Ah, that's more than enough for now. Too much writing involved and I have other work to do.

As per usual, absorb at your own risk.

-Fantastic Lad

Hmmm (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:46:32 PM EST

Abductees are taken, manipulated upon in another state of reality and time, and then returned in the same instant of our 'time'.

That reminds me of something the Sidhe would do, as Irish legend is rife with such occurances.

As far as the Book of Revelations is concerned, some have interpreted it as something more akin to the Tibetan Book of the Dead than actual prophecy. As far as your idea about beings that feed on others' negative energies, I guess there's a lot of "hungry ghosts" around ...

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
You get a 5. (none / 0) (#28)
by br284 on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:59:17 PM EST

Your post greatly entertained me. Keep it up.


[ Parent ]

But of course! I live to entertain! (none / 0) (#38)
by Fantastic Lad on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 08:04:02 AM EST

[ Parent ]
haha - a pro UFO troll (none / 0) (#54)
by lonemarauder on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 03:01:06 PM EST

Funny. I wonder if one could come off convincingly trying to respond from the standpoint of one of Them - an alien agent disguised as a human?

[ Parent ]
Mmm... yummy fear . (none / 0) (#33)
by Lovepuppet on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 01:06:49 AM EST

/me waves to all the hungry err... "Beings".

you know who you are.

[ Parent ]

You are free to copy this soul.... (none / 0) (#44)
by jzitt on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 04:31:45 PM EST

3. While they do happen, most abductions are for the most part not physical in nature, (weird concept, eh?). Instead, what more commonly happens is that either a) the soul-matrix is removed from the body, or a copy of the soul-matrix is made and worked upon. Can they do that legally? Are souls covered under the GPL? Is there an Ectoplasmic Property lawyer in the house?

[ Parent ]
man, what are you doing here? (none / 0) (#49)
by Shren on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 01:23:07 PM EST

You could have your own cult of loyal followers. Why are you wasting your time on K5? Go recruit lackeys.

[ Parent ]
lol (none / 0) (#53)
by lonemarauder on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 02:57:22 PM EST

Good goddam, that was the funniest post I have ever read. Thank god no one's in the office to hear me howling.

[ Parent ]
Time travel (none / 0) (#52)
by salsaman on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 02:49:19 PM EST

In very rare cases, the victim has been returned to a point in 'time' a couple of years before the event. In such cases, the victim has gone mad.

As opposed to say, winning the lottery ?

[ Parent ]

Reminds me of the old Kids in the Hall skit... (3.66 / 6) (#23)
by LukeyBoy on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 10:23:56 PM EST

Sir, we've been anal probing country folk for years - and all we've learned is that four out of ten like it.

Liars (5.00 / 5) (#29)
by DeadBaby on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:13:03 PM EST

The thing that upsets me the most about these people is the fact they've totally corrupted the national dialog about space. Instead of talking about real goals the vast majority of the "man on the street" discussion on space is about abductions and UFO sightings. Instead of people being excited about real science news they'd rather buy the newest book on why little grey men from space seem to be so fascinated by the human anus.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
My God, there's nothing here! (1.00 / 2) (#31)
by cb on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:32:01 PM EST


Faeries, demons, centrifuges (4.33 / 3) (#32)
by Pseudonym on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 12:12:44 AM EST

Alien abduction reports also have much in common with reports of faerie abduction and demon attack.

The incubi and succubi, for example, were demons which supposedly sexually attacked you at night by sitting on top of you, making you feel suffocated. The victim would often smell the demon and even hear its voice. The symptoms sound extremely similar to what we now know as temporal lobe seizure.

Interesting factoid: The term "night-mare" comes from the Old English word for daemon ("mare"), and originally referred to a demon which attacked in the night.

Another interesting factoid: Someone I know used to suffer from temporal lobe seizures. The main effect in this case was something very close to bipolar disorder with a very fast cycle, on the order of five days. The person in question never reported alien abduction, but some of the symptoms mentioned above (the "presence", the mystical experiences) were present.

Anyway, those who are suggesting that so-called alien abduction is due to attention seeking or lying, well, that may be true in some cases. However, this isn't necessarily even the simplest explanation, especially considering odd that the symptoms are very similar to otherwise unrelated phenomena from centuries ago.

Even some symptoms of "near death experience" (e.g. tunnel vision, bright lights etc), which are often reported by pilots subjected to lots of g's, many aspects in common with "abduction". This strongly suggests that there is at least some physiological effects at work here.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Seems strange (2.50 / 2) (#35)
by Graham Thomas on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 02:57:36 AM EST

That most UFO sightings happen in certain parts of the United States of America. This localisation alone suggests that it's unlikely that these stories are more than delusions, fancies, or fabrications.

it seems people who report themselves as abductees are more likely to endorse unusual experiences,

If you don't consider this mentally ill, what do you consider mentally ill?

be creative and imaginative,

Fine, let's just assume that this is true. There are more creative and imaginative people who have not been "abducted by aliens" than those who have. The difference being, the creative amd imaginative people who were abducted were probably mentally ill.

have depressive ideas, be suspicious, have dissociative tendencies

With respect, Vaughan, these sound like common symptoms of various mental illnesses.

There is more on heaven and earth, Horatio... (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by Vaughan on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 04:57:52 AM EST

That most UFO sightings happen in certain parts of the United States of America. This localisation alone suggests that it's unlikely that these stories are more than delusions, fancies, or fabrications.

There are many cases on record where false beliefs and strange physical and psychological experiences have been spread via localised social networks. For example, the phenomena of Koro (the belief that the penis is shrinking into the body, after which the sufferer will die) tends to be specific to Africa and South Asia, with outbreaks tending to happen in small localised areas.

A good review of these sort of localised 'social delusions' is in Robert Batholomew's book Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-Hunting Panics: A study of mass psychogenic illness and social delusion.

The fact that a belief or experience is localised is no evidence that it may be false or innaccurate.

With respect, Vaughan, these sound like common symptoms of various mental illnesses.

Indeed they can be, but that doesn't mean to say that the person is mentally ill. To be diagnosed as mentally ill, a person has to fulfill certain standardised diagnostic criteria. For example, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia has many points, but note how you could still show a solitary symptom (for example an hallucination) but still not fulfill the criteria.

This is important because such symptoms are prevalent in the normal population, without there being mental illness present.

Similarly, I may show some of the symptoms of meningitis (headache, drowsiness, vomiting, stiff neck) but still not be diagnosed with this particular illness, or any other for that matter.

Psychosis is more recently being considered to exist on a continuum, rather than an all (illness) or nothing (health) model. So it is quite possible, that people claiming to have been abducted by aliens can report slightly higher levels of unusual thinking and perceptions, without being diagnosed with a mental illness.

Although we might say that such people are closer in their style of thinking than 'non-abductees' to the formal criteria for mental illness.

[ Parent ]

Lack of dysfunction (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by pyro9 on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 11:41:14 AM EST

but note how you could still show a solitary symptom (for example an hallucination) but still not fulfill the criteria.

It is especially worth noting that most conditions in DSM include a criterion of significant social or occupational dysfunction.

That means that a person could be terribly delusional, frequently hear voices and have visual hallucinations, but by keeping quiet about it and getting on with everyday responsabilities, manage not to meet the criterion of dysfunction.

It's made all the more foggy since dysfunction is to an extent in the eye of the beholder.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
sexual abuse or zenophobia? (2.00 / 2) (#37)
by livus on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 06:58:30 AM EST

Did you find any data on studies about the proportion of abductees who are also victims of sexual abuse?

The other thing about this which interests me is the correlation between aliens and 'strangers' - back when the world was flat people would ascribe all sorts of scary stuff to unknown people, or, for the religious, on demons, etc. I wonder if this fixation on aliens may be partly because there is no one left in this world for people to reasonably be quite this afraid of.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

The cultural framework ? (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by Shubin on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 08:52:45 AM EST

> This may give some people a cultural framework > on which they can hang memories from a bizarre, > unusual or traumatic experience. It is easy to check this hypothesis. Just compare number of alien victims among different cultures and cultural frameworks. Where there are more abductions - in England or in Thailand ? Finland or Algeria ? And comare this with the number of articles in newspapers, describing similar cases. I think it is possible to calculate a bias towards aliens in different cultures.

Look through the ages (none / 0) (#42)
by strlen on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 02:57:24 PM EST

Bias towards aliens comes because of the culture of a civilization as a whole, where 'unknown beings' are now being interpreted as 'aliens' instead of 'angels'. For instance, before there were UFO sightnings, a common myth that derived itself from sleep paralysis are succubi and incubbi, who at night sit on the chest of their victim -- clearly a description of sleep paralysis.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Aliens == elves (none / 0) (#46)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 10:20:54 AM EST

I forget who first publicly asserted that the modern world has substituted "aliens" for "fairies" and how alien encounters were similar to old fairy tales.

Of course, that could just mean that "they" have been here a long time...

So many freaks, so few circuses.

[ Parent ]

Carl Sagan, A Candle in the Dark <nt> (none / 0) (#65)
by Meatbomb on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 01:06:06 PM EST


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
How important is language to experience? (none / 0) (#55)
by Gooba42 on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 03:31:53 PM EST

I would be the first to admit that the alien abduction phenomenon closely resembles "old time" reports of succubi, incubi, elves, fey folk, etc. I would contend however that using a different word to describe the experience doesn't invalidate the experience.

It's still something we can't entirely explain away. Many cases may be fake, many might not be. We aren't sufficiently advanced technologically to properly sort out a "real" memory from a "fake" memory.

"Succubus" or "sleep paralysis" are different words for the same experience. One of them has an explanation, "Some entity is doing this to me..." and the other is some vague notion that our brain had a glitch while we slept. Which one do you think is easier to cope with for a victim? Being able to blame someone or having no clue what happened?

[ Parent ]
Easier to deal with? (none / 0) (#57)
by strlen on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 05:59:27 PM EST

I've experienced sleep paralysis once. It's definately much easier for me to accept that it's a completely natural happening of my brain, with explainable psychologic theory behind it, than to think some aliens are trying to kidnap me. In fact, I don't consider myself a 'victim' at all, as sleep paralysis is completely harmless (and it usually happens to most every individual every so often). The problem is that people are often ignorant of the reasonable scientific explanation behind it, and want to accept the sexier, and the 'cooler' explanation of succubi/inccubi/aliens etc..

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Understanding, of any kind.... (none / 0) (#58)
by Gooba42 on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 10:15:53 PM EST

For you personally, I think this is the case because you have such faith in the science of the matter. There are definitely those among us who have more faith in their own impression of the experience than in the often politically corrected explanation they are given.

In most cases I think I personally have an easier time having something which I could confront or handle in some tangible sense. The glitch in the brain is relatively abstract and makes it in some sense "something wrong with me".

While in some senses it could be empowering to know that it's nothing you can do anything about, but it won't hurt you; in some ways it feels better to have something you can act on or against even if you don't know what exactly.

For me personally it's a terrifying notion that there might be some power or entities with either ill-will or apathy towards me and which does not respect my will. Then again, supposedly that's why we vote.

[ Parent ]
An opportunity (none / 0) (#61)
by pyro9 on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 07:20:53 PM EST

To me, I do prefer knowing it's a misfire in the brain. It's a good opportunity to explore altered states, and get a better feel for the nervous system from an inside perspective.

I find that a deep meditation can also cause a mild form of sleep paralysis as well. The quickest way to break it (assuming I want to) for me is to concentrate on twitching my little finger. Once it twitches, it seems to 'break the spell' and get everything working again.

The most interesting experiance I have had is related, but not quite the same thing. My consciousness ended up seperate from motor control, but not somatosensory, so that I could feel my hands adjusting the covers without my volition.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
That sounds like... (none / 0) (#63)
by Gooba42 on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 12:14:04 AM EST

That sounds like a hell of an experience. I've never really been able to accomplish any deep form of meditation.

Sounds very interesting though, something I'll have to play with on my own.

[ Parent ]
More Items (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by SEWilco on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 03:21:00 PM EST

  • Reality is what people remember. We obviously attach tags such as "experienced","read of", "imagination", and "dream" to memories. Ever dream of school? You just remembered that it was a dream. Now imagine being in that same place. (Well, that's short-term memory -- do you have a memory of imagining something about school?) Now remember actually being in that part of the school. If someone loses or changes one of those tags, the memory becomes of that type. A dream or imagination can become a memory of something real.
  • People can live dreams. Sometimes people are conscious during a dream and can experience and affect the dream. This can confuse memories, particularly if there is no "dream" tag -- perhaps due to someone not realizing it is a dream.
  • Brains have creative components. Well-known experiments were done with people who had surgery which destroyed the part of the brain which normally carries information between the halves of the brain. These showed that if one half performed an action which the other side was not involved in, the other half could come up with reasons/excuses for that action (often lame or far-fetched excuses). So there are parts of the brain which try to explain things, and they could come up with stories which get remembered as fact.

Interpretation (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by czolgosz on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 12:11:17 AM EST

I think that alien abduction memories might be real. Strange beings doing inexplicable things while you're helpless, some of those acts involving your private parts or horrible pain. Fragmentary but vivid recollections.

Sounds to me like memories of diaper changes and shots from infancy, given a retrospective sci-fi interpretation.
Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
Impossible (none / 0) (#59)
by Pseudonym on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 01:13:42 AM EST

It's impossible to remember back that far in your life, as your brain isn't developed enough. You might "remember" a story from your infancy retold to you many times, but that's not a real memory.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Maybe Possible (none / 0) (#67)
by czolgosz on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 05:37:24 PM EST

The idea that there are no memories reaching back to early infancy is based on some "Soft-science" developmental theories, not on hard physiology. It might be true, or might not. It's equally likely that memories start getting laid down as soon as there are stimuli to remember. What else is driving development, the utterly random growth of neurons? And the kind of memories I was referring to could be formed as late as age two. Children have acquired considerable language skills by then, and it's implausible that they could have done so without memory.

The same psychologists who claim that infants have no neural pathways to support memory also used to assert that babies were colorblind. Then someone devised an experiment that conclusively demonstrated that infants could discriminate colors just fine.

So I think the jury's still out on this one. In the meantime, I'd lay better odds on alien abduction memories being distorted recollections of early childhood than of their being attributable to actual abduction by aliens (and even better odds that it might be something else entirely).
Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
Side comment (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by slippytoad on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 11:33:05 AM EST

I have owned an 8-inch dobsonian mount telescope for almost 10 years now. While I don't get out with it as much as I used to, I did spend a lot of nights around 1994-95 looking up. At the time I had also heard the 4 million abducted Americans figure, and with that I did a little math, and figured out with various start dates that there should have been anywhere from 100-500 abductions going on every night.

I then decided there was a fairly high probability of me spotting one or of these spaceships on their way down or up, since I was spending so much time looking up at the sky. Of course, I have yet to see something through the telescope that I couldn't explain. More importantly, despite the proliferation of high-power telescopes with CCD cameras attached, no one has reliably seen or photographed anything really stunning. I mean, I catch a plane or two, but I can see that they're planes. I've even caught the Shuttle and the Space Station. But never anything more exotic than that -- except, of course, the stars and planets themselves, which are extremely exotic and interesting but no one seems to talk about anymore. Of course posts like this continue to prove to me that the purveyors of this kind of nonsense won't let the utter lack of emperical data stop them from pimping a good fairy tale. When the physical facts just won't do, remove the argument from the physical realm.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain

hehehe (1.00 / 1) (#50)
by Shren on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 01:25:19 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Did you even read the article? (none / 0) (#60)
by Pseudonym on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 01:21:48 AM EST

This article does not support the "X Files" interpretation of whatever causes people to claim that they've been abducted by aliens. Rather, the article attempts to answer the question: Given the reasonable default assumption that these people are not in fact being abducted, given the lack of evidence for and the good arguments against, why might people claim they are being abducted? This article goes on to give some quite good possibilities as to the real source behind these claims beyond the dismissive "they're all lying" or "they're all seeking attention", all based on known neurological and psychological effects.

Now it may turn out that sleep paralysis, temporal lobe seizures and so on may not be the cause, but that would be incorrect science, not pseudoscience. Please learn the difference.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Communion (none / 0) (#56)
by tralfamadore on Tue Sep 03, 2002 at 03:45:45 PM EST

the only alien abduction story i've read is whitley streiber's "communion" which was a very honest account of something he just couldn't explain. it definitely changed my thoughts on the subject, as i believe he's relating his experience truthfully. and  if it was supposed to be a pr stunt, it certainly didn't work. anyways, great book regardless.

No and Yes... (none / 0) (#64)
by SaintPort on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 10:28:14 AM EST

if it was supposed to be a pr stunt, it certainly didn't work

"Communion" made him a best-selling author didn't it?  I did not say he is lying, but it did work.

I read some of his other books... like "Cat Magic" ...basically Wiccan propaganda.  When a person opens himself to Anti-Christian belief he opens himself to demonic forces.  He probably did experience some spiritual darkness.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

The Psychology and Neuroscience of Alien Abduction | 67 comments (64 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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