Click to viewA few days ago, the Weird Universe blog dug up a 1993 report on a UFO abduction survey, investigated by sociology professor Ted Goertzel at Rutgers University. The report was checking into a previous study's claim that 3.7 million Americans were suffering from "UFO abduction syndrome." While the Goertzel report largely debunked the idea that millions of Americans are actual abductees, you might still be in some danger — especially if you live in South Jersey.
Goertzel's study first reviewed an existing UFO abduction survey, which asked about five major experiences that could indicate a possible abduction:
1. "Waking up paralyzed with a sense of a strange person or presence or something else in the room."
2. "Experiencing a period of time of an hour or more, in which you were apparently lost, but you could not remember why or where you had been."
3. "Feeling that you were actually flying through the air although you didn't know why or how."
4. "Seeing unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them."
5. "Finding puzzling scars on your body and neither you nor anyone else remembering how you received them or where you got them."
Survey respondents would qualify as "abductees" if they recognized four out of five of those experiences. Goertzel published percentages of those respondents, both nationally and locally in South Jersey: It turns out people in South Jersey are 1.7 times more likely to be "abductees."
This early study may have been flawed, however — Goertzel and his team refined it, adding several more questions, with the goal of getting deeper and more detailed information on those Americans who apparently were former abductees. When they did, they found some ambiguity.
In this case, there are at least two alternative theories which can explain why the measure is internally consistent. One is that the respondents are consistently reporting on similar experiences as UFO abductees. The other is that the individuals who score high on the scale share a psychological tendency to have false memories. Flournoy (1911) referred to this phenomenon as cryptomnesia. Psychologist Robert Baker (1992: 78) states that this phenomenon of "seeing complex visual images in one's head that you cannot remember ever having seen before or...suddenly hearing voices from unknown and unrecollected sources is not only a much more common occurrence than is generally known but is also one of the more interesting and intriguing anomalies in the field of 'normal' human behavior."
To investigate the cryptomnesia phenomenon, Goertzel mapped out the correlation between the various survey responses and the reports of unusual personal experiences. People who believe that high government officials were involved in the Kennedy assassination, for example, had a 21% correlation with those supposed "abductees." There was a 20% correlation between "abductees" and those who think the Air Force is hiding evidence of flying saucers. But the most overlap occurred with two separate groups of survey respondents: Those who admitted to feeling that others were conspiring against them, and those who said they enjoyed "reading books about UFOs and other strange phenomena."
Well, if that's the case, it looks like quite a few io9 readers might be suffering from cryptomnesia. So if you find yourself freaking out about that moving white light in your bedroom, just ask yourself: What would Agent Scully say?
Image from Alien Abductions 24/7
Have You Been Abducted By Aliens? [Weird Universe]