Psychological Studies on ET Contact Experiencers
Social Science Theories, Hypotheses and
By Kathleen Marden, BA, MA Edu.
“… For his study, Warren eliminated all women and black men because he relegated both groups to the status inconsistent / marginal category.” – Donald Warren, University of Michigan
Status Inconsistency Theory
Dating back to the early 1970s, numerous social scientists have generated scholarly articles about the special personality characteristics of saucer observers. The earliest post-Condon article by a social scientist that I could locate appeared in the November 6, 1970 issue of the prestigious peer reviewed journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In “Status Inconsistency Theory and Flying Saucer Sightings”, Donald I. Warren, from the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan, used sociological theory and statistics to postulate that there is an elevated level of extraterrestrial visitation belief among individuals who are frustrated by their failure to achieve economic and/or occupational status in proportion to their educational levels. Social inconsistency, he states, leads to “withdrawal, defeatism and retreat from the larger society.” (5) He proposes that “marginal status persons” as a result of their feelings of alienation and distrust of the system, believe flying saucers represent extraterrestrial craft as a rejection of society’s dominant values. Therefore, in Warren’s opinion, UFO sightings are but a manifestation of marginalized social status and confused thinking.
Warren’s empirical analysis was based upon the 1966 Gallup poll information pertaining to UFOs, educational attainment, economic status and occupational level. The question asked by the Gallup Poll (sample size 1575) was “Have you, yourself, ever seen anything you thought was a flying saucer?” Five percent of all respondents on the 1966 Gallup Poll of adults twenty-one and older replied in the affirmative. For his study, Warren eliminated all women and black men because he relegated both groups to the status inconsistent / marginal category. For the purpose of his study, he divided the remaining white male group into three categories: status consistent, moderately status inconsistent and sharply status inconsistent. Warren’s statistical analysis found that moderately and sharply status inconsistent white males (those with low income but moderate to high educational attainment) were more likely to report observing at least one object that they believed was a flying saucer. The men with the highest level of educational attainment but the lowest income or occupational status were most likely to report flying saucer sightings on the poll.
There were several problems with Warren’s conclusions. First, had Warren included female and African American responses, his theory would have been defeated because status consistents outnumbered status inconsistents in reporting UFO sightings on the Gallup poll. Also he did not consider the white males’ age groupings. College students and retired men are two groups that quite possibly register as status inconsistent. They often work part-time in jobs below their educational and occupational levels.
Several letters to the editor appeared in the March 12, 1971 issue of Science which called into question Warren’s conclusions. G.L. Cowgill, from the Anthropology Department at Brandeis University, argued that Warren’s research did not present statistically significant evidence in support of his hypothesis, adding that the strong academic job market would have provided jobs to the highly educated men who desired them. In the same section, Peter Dubno, Graduate School of Business Administration, NY University, offered a viable refutation to Warren’s conclusions. He found a very important variable that Warren had failed to consider: status inconsistent men from rural areas were more likely to report sightings than their urban counterparts. Therefore rural residence correlates with flying saucer sightings more than status inconsistency. Additionally, those who live in rural areas are more likely to be status inconsistent than those who reside in the city.
Warren later attempted to replicate his findings but failed. (6) (This information was not published). He did however find that general status level correlates positively with UFO experiences. In 1979, Phillis Fox (Cal. State) failed in his attempt to replicate Warren’s Status Inconsistency Theory. Despite the failure of Warren’s theory, debunkers have not ceased in citing status inconsistency as a causal factor in UFO sightings.
Although a few social scientists’ scholarly articles had appeared in prestigious peer reviewed journals during the 1970s (“Supernatural Beliefs of Graduate Students” Nature, 1971, “Physical Fairyland” Nature, 1972, and “Social Intelligence about Anomalies: The Case of UFOs in Social Studies of Science, 1977), the NAS’s recommendation did not gain momentum until the mid-1980s. In 1984, Troy Zimmer wrote “Social Psychological Correlates of Possible UFO Sightings in The Journal of Social Psychology and Alvin Lawson, an English professor wrote “Perinatal Imagery in UFO Abductions Reports in The Journal of Psychohistory. By 1985, Deviant Behavior published Troy Zimmer’s article, “Belief in UFOs as Alternative Reality, Cultural Rejection or Disturbed Psyche.
Zimmer (Cal. State) made an interesting point in his discussion of Phillis Fox’s surveys of small communities regarding belief that some UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. Fox found that exposure to UFO media (comic books, science fiction movies, magazine articles, etc.) did not correlate to belief in UFOs as alien spacecraft. (Despite this finding, Schaeffer, Menzel, Taves and numerous debunkers contend that media coverage is a leading factor in UFO belief.) In a 1979 study, Fox found that it is belief in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, combined with knowledge about the space program, and unidentified flying objects that cannot be explained in prosaic terms that causes people to believe that some UFOs are extraterrestrial craft.
Zimmer surveyed 475 college undergraduates regarding their belief in UFOs. Questions pertained to whether or not they or anyone they knew had ever seen a UFO, their interest in the subject, and their interest in UFO related media. They were also queried about their belief in the occult and their attitudes in reference to a malevolent world view, cultural rejection and personal well-being. (7) In an additional category, questions pertained to UFO believers’ general happiness and social adjustment compared to non-believers. UFO belief correlated positively with the belief that intelligent life exists somewhere else in the universe. Many believed that astrology is accurate and that the occult exists. The undergraduate believers were often science fiction fans and enjoyed talking about UFOs. There was a negative correlation between UFO belief and social or psychological maladjustment. Believers were no more likely than the “unsure” group to be disturbed, culturally alienated or cynical. (8)
Several high profile ET Contact reports during the 1970s shifted the focus from the study of UFO observers to the psychosocial aspects of ET Contact. Many of the early ET Contacts were accompanied by credible evidence, including physical evidence, multiple witness testimony, normal psychological profiles, polygraph exams that indicated no deception, and correlating hypnotic recall regarding details about the experience that could not have been the result of information contamination.
The momentum increased during the 1980s and 1990s when reports emerged from individuals claiming to have been kidnapped by nonhumans, often from their bedrooms during the night. The amorphous nature of the latter ET Contacts and academic psychologist’s incredulous attitudes about the existence of physical evidence resulted in several experimental studies of alleged ET experiencers. Additionally, psychologists and debunkers (often with no formal training in psychology) produced scholarly articles which introduced a series of hypotheses designed to explain the phenomenon as a psychological aberration.
Most ignored the reported evidence (scars, missing time, waking up in a stranger’s clothing, conscious recollection of an event, waking up locked outside one’s house, PTSD following an alleged experience, correlating data, etc.). Instead they addressed the issue, not of ET Contact per se, but of the purported psychological features that could lead to the” misguided belief” that UFOs and ET Contact are real. Major mental illness, hypnosis, and a variety of personality traits and disorders have all been offered as psychological explanations for ET Contact. Sometimes, biased researchers have been quite creative in their attempts to explain ET Contact and have devoted considerable time to their efforts to back up conjecture with personality inventories and psychological experiments. Academia seldom examines the scientific evidence that suggests some abductions by extraterrestrial beings could be real. Nor does it measure the probability of ET Contact assessed on a case by case basis.
Years of systematic study has indicated that alleged ET experiencers exhibit no more psychopathology than the general population. They come from all societal levels from all over the world, ranging from peasant farmers to professionally prominent individuals. In the absence of a primary psychiatric disorder, experimental psychologists have searched for alternative psychological explanations for the belief that one has been abducted by aliens. Several experimental studies over the past thirty years have attempted to delineate personality traits that separate UFO Contact Experiencers from non-experiencers, such as boundary deficit disorder, fantasy proneness, hallucinations, sleep anomalies, confabulation in hypnosis, false memory syndrome, absorption of cultural mythos, etcetera. Personality disorders are characterized as traits that cause people to feel and behave in socially distressing ways. They may be negative, hostile, needy, or exhibit antisocial behavior. People with personality disorders carry these traits throughout their lifetime, but they may fluctuate in terms of symptoms and intensity. In this section we will explore a variety of personality disorders and the research findings relating to the personalities of self identified experiencers, as well as additional psychological hypotheses regarding the abduction phenomenon.
Continue Reading Part III: Fantasy Prone Personality and Dissociative States, Boundary Deficit Disorder; Kottmeyer wrong on every hypothesis.
This article is published with the expressed written permission of Kathleen Marden for publication on The Alien Jigsaw: alienjigsaw.com