Close encounters of the mind kind
ALIEN abduction is probably all in the mind, according to research presented today.
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully of X-Files
A new study supports the theory that people who claim to have contact with aliens are psychologically vulnerable to false memories.
Compared with other people, they also believe more strongly in the paranormal, and report experiencing more X Files-type activity, made famous by the programme starring Gillian Anderson (pictured) as Dana Scully.
Wales has been a hotspot for UFO sightings, including a spate of reports of extra-terrestrial experiences in 1977, which led to a government inquiry into strange goings-on in the so-called Broad Haven Triangle.
But research by Professor Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College in London has suggested that this type of contact with alien life may be all in the mind.
Prof French carried out the study by comparing 19 alleged "abductees" and 19 random volunteers.
He found that in psychological tests, so-called "experiencers" scored more highly in a number of areas, including belief in the paranormal, a tendency to hallucinate, and "dissociative" tendencies which can lead to altered states of consciousness.
They were also likely to fantasise, and had a history of sleep paralysis. Like other paranormal experiences, such as encounters with ghosts, alien abduction is often associated with sleep paralysis episodes, Prof French says.
In this state, a sleeper wakes to find him or herself unable to move but aware of their surroundings. At the same time, dream-like auditory and visual hallucinations may occur.
Prof French, who will present his findings tonight at the Science Museum in London, said, "In the late 20th century, an increasing number of people around the world began to claim that they had had a most bizarre experience.
"Typically, they would report being taken from their beds or from their cars by alien beings."
These beings were often around four feet high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads.
"The abductees, or 'experiencers' as they prefer to be known, would describe how they had found themselves on board an alien spaceship where they were subjected to (often painful) medical examination, during which sperm or ova might be extracted.
"Although it is hard to estimate just how many people have conscious memories of this kind it is likely to run into at least several thousand worldwide."
The findings were backed by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, who suggested claims of alien contact were derived from a desire to believe in extra-terrestrial life.
"It's some kind of instinctive need to link up with life outside Earth, but the experiences that are recorded by these people are factors of the imagination. They have had the sensation of an encounter, but it can not be quantified or substantiated."
Story continues at icnetwork.co.uk.