Psychological Studies on ET Contact Experiencers

By Kathleen Marden, BA, MA Edu.

“The trick would be…to describe the project, so that to the public, it would appear a totally objective study, but to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of nonbelievers trying their best to be objective, but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer…” – Robert J. Low, from the “Trick Memo

The Shift From the Study of Evidence to Social Research

A few years ago, I felt perplexed by the failure of physical science to take UFOs and ET Contact cases seriously enough to fund academic research studies on the evidence that these phenomena might be real and not imaginary. As part of my investigation, it seemed prudent to explore the official channels that diverted funding away from the scientific investigation of physical evidence to the study of those who report UFO encounters by social scientists. I discovered an orchestrated plan through official channels to effectively take the science out of UFO research on official levels. The following is an updated version of a paper I presented at MUFON’s 2010 MUFON International Symposium.

In 1966, the Air Force Science Advisory Board’s Ad Hoc Committee convened to review Project Blue Book, ostensibly in an effort to improve it. (Also in 1966, John G. Fuller’s Incident at Exeter and The Interrupted Journey hit the New York Times Bestseller list.) Secretly, however, its real purpose was to end the project by claiming that there is no evidence to support the belief that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. Members included the following:

  • Brian O’Brien, Ph.D., committee chairman. He was an optical physicist and chairman of the US Air Force Studies Board for 12 years.

  • Launor F. Carter, Ph.D., a social scientist and vice president of the Systems Development Corporation (a social science research and evaluation company). He was the chief scientist in charge of the US Air Force’s knowledge production and utilization in education.

  • Jesse Orlanski, Ph.D., a psychologist for the Institute of Defense Analysis and Research and the engineering support division. Specialized in problems of behavioral science research for national security.

  • Richard Porter, Ph.D., an electrical engineer who worked on space sciences programs at the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Willis H. Ware, Ph.D., an electrical engineer and computer scientist for the Rand Corporation. Specialist in military and information processing problems that pertain to computers. 

  • Carl Sagan, Ph.D., astrophysicist, exobiologist, professor at Cornell, advisor to NASA, and later advocate for SETI.

In October 1966, the Secretary of Defense announced the committee’s decision to hire Edward U. Condon, PhD, a respected physicist at the University of Colorado to spearhead a formal study on unidentified flying objects, which resulted in the 1969 “University of Colorado Report on Unidentified Flying Objects”. Ufologists’ high hopes for an objective study diminished when Condon made a series of negative public statements about the project, avoided cases that warranted serious attention and personally focused upon “crackpot” cases.

At the project’s inception in 1966, Robert J. Low, assistant dean of the graduate school wrote to university officials Thurston Manning and E. James Archer, “In order to undertake such a project, one would have to approach it objectively. That is, one has to admit the possibility that such things as UFOs exist. It is not respectable to give serious consideration to such a possibility…The very act of admitting these possibilities just as possibilities puts us beyond the pale.” (2)

In 1968, Norman Levine, Ph.D., a Condon Committee scientific investigator accidently discovered the infamous “Trick Memo” in the project files. Low continued, “The trick would be, I think, to describe the project, so that to the public, it would appear a totally objective study, but to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of nonbelievers trying their best to be objective, but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer… One way to do this would be to stress investigation, not of the physical phenomena, but rather of the people who do the observing – the psychology and sociology of persons and groups who report seeing UFOs…I can’t imagine a paper coming out of the study that would be publishable in a prestigious physical science journal. I can quite easily imagine, however, that psychologists, sociologists and psychiatrists might well generate scholarly publications as a result of their investigations of saucer observers.” (3)

Levine handed the memo to David R. Saunders, Ph.D, a Condon Committee key staff member. In turn the memo found its way to writer John G. Fuller. His expose’ in the May 14, 1968 issue of LOOK magazine titled “Flying Saucer Fiasco: The half-million-dollar cover-up on whether UFOs really exist” blew the project wide open, enraged ufologists, and troubled American taxpayers. Saunders and Levine were expelled from the project.

In keeping with his negative tone, at the end of the study Condon issued the following statement: “Nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge.…we consider it safe to assume that no ILE (intelligent life elsewhere) outside of our solar system has any possibility of visiting Earth in the next 10,000 years.” (4)

Despite the official statement made by Edward Condon that the committee found no evidence to justify a belief that extraterrestrial visitors have penetrated our skies, the special UFO subcommittee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics found that 30 percent of the 117 cases studied in detail could not be identified.

The subsequent National Academy of Science’s report on the Condon Study states, “The least likely explanation for UFOs is the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitations by intelligent beings.”  Is it any wonder that Section 7 of the report states that UFO reports “should be of interest to social scientists”? This taken together with the “trick memo” suggests that project’s conclusions and recommendations might have been predetermined before even one evidentiary file had been examined. It is no surprise that today social scientists receive grants to engage in academic studies on self reported experiencers in an academic setting; not physical scientists such as the late James McDonald, Ph.D. 

Continue Reading Part II: Social Science theories, Hypotheses and Research Status Inconsistency Theory.

This article is published with the expressed written permission of Kathleen Marden for publication on

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Kathleen Marden

Kathleen Marden is known around the world for her work as a UFO ET contact researcher, experiencer rights advocate, author and lecturer. She has 24 years experience in the field. For the past 3 years, she has served as MUFON’s Director of ET Contact Research. In 2012, The Mutual UFO Network named her “Ufologist of the Year.” She is also a member of the Foundation for Research of Extraterrestrial Encounter’s Advisory Board and a consultant to FREE’s Research Subcommittee. Kathleen-Marden-alien-abduction.jpg

She earned a B.A. degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire in 1971, and participated in graduate studies in education while working as a teacher and education services coordinator. She also has extensive training in hypnosis.

Her interest in UFOs dates back to September 20, 1961, when her aunt, Betty Hill phoned her nearby home to report that she and Barney had encountered a flying saucer in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. A primary witness to the evidence of the UFO encounter and the aftermath, Kathleen has intimate knowledge of the Hill’s biographical histories, personalities, and the previously unpublished historical files pertaining to their sensational story.


She is the author of three books, Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, and Science was Wrong, with nuclear physicist/scientific ufologist Stanton T. Friedman, and The Alien Abduction Files, with Denise Stoner. Additionally, her essays appear in several books. Her articles have been published in the MUFON UFO Journal, Open Minds, and FATE magazines and on several websites. Kathy has appeared in television and radio programs in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, and has lectured throughout the United States. She is recognized as the world’s leading expert on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. Global-ET-Research: Alien-Abduction-Files.jpg

Articles by Kathleen Marden


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