Strange beliefs are actually rife among humans. From the latest rise of the anti-vaccination movement,1 to the prominence of the Flat Earth movement,2 many of us has bizarre beliefs. For example, at the time of writing, 1.6 million Facebook users have marked themselves as attending a storming of Area fifty-one, the Air Base in Nevada, United States. The reason behind this?’ To see them aliens’, presumed hidden by the United States government.
You will find all kinds of explanations we can give for the prevalence of conspiratorial beliefs, like the makeup of the social groups of ours, and the wide access to an internet packed full of conspiratorial claims (researchers ran a Google search for’ vaccination’ and’ immunization’ which turned up results forty-three % of which were anti-vaccination.
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Why might some folks think that you will find aliens being hidden by the United States government? First, of course, via the common routes of one’s social group and internet activity, but also because lots of people claim to have been in contact with aliens. For many, this contact is actually a matter of aliens visiting the bedroom of theirs at night. Still, for others, it can mean being abducted, taken aboard a spaceship, and once there, being subjected to medical experimentation, including the removal of sperm or eggs.
Some abductees claim to have formed sexual relationships and produced hybrid offspring with their abductors and received info that is vital about the fate of the Earth. The prevalence of these beliefs is actually unknown, but estimates vary from’ at least several 1000 worldwide’,4 to 3.7 million in American alone.5 If aliens are actually visiting and abducting (at least) thousands of us, the idea that the United States government may be hiding aliens in a secret military base starts to look less outlandish and much more, maybe, utterly plausible.
So why do folks think they’ve been abducted by aliens when, presumably, they have not? Psychologists looking to answer this question have appealed to awareness during sleep paralysis (Accompanying hallucinations and asp). During Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the sleeper is actually immobilized.
In ASP, the sleeper wakes up before the paralysis has disappeared and is actually informed they cannot move. seventy-five % of subjects will hallucinate whilst experiencing ASP.6 Abductees report a variety of these experiences; the hallucinations may be visual, including’ lights, animals, strange figures, and demons,’ or perhaps auditory including’ heavy footsteps, buzzing or humming noises.7 Several reports from abductees chime well with this explanation. Consider one:
A male abductee awoke in the midst of the night, seized with panic. He was entirely paralyzed and felt electricity shooting throughout the entire body. He felt his energy draining away from him. He might see several alien beings standing around his bed.8
Today, of course, not everyone that has an experience of this kind ends up believing aliens abducted them. It may be thought that for those that do, something is pathologically amiss. Nevertheless, there is actually no convincing evidence for higher rates of serious psychopathology amongst abductees than the general population.
9 What has been found, though, is actually that abductees often entertain New Age beliefs (in, for instance, astral projection, foretelling the future, and so on), which maybe make them much more prone to explaining their nighttime experience by appeal to alien abduction. Although New Age views are completely normal, which is actually to say, they’re widespread in the healthy population. As psychologist Brendan Maher puts it, regular folks are:
prone to think in the Bermuda Triangle, flying saucers, spoon bending by mental power, the Abominable Snowman, and return to life after the out-of-body experience of death. This list doesn’t even mention such marginalia of normal science as pre-birth hypnotic age regression, multiple personalities, […] and therefore forth.10
What’s intriguing about the case of alien abduction beliefs then is actually very bizarre and yet are formed by individuals reasoning in a perfectly normal (albeit nonideal) way. It’s thus a case that highlights the value of normal range (if irrational) contributions to bizarre beliefs and might inform our accounts of bizarre beliefs as they occur in the clinical population.
Researchers interested in explaining clinical delusions (beliefs like’ my mother has been replaced by an imposter (Capgras delusion) or’ I am dead’ (Cotard delusion)) often appeal to the idea that individuals with delusions reason in clinically abnormal ways. Nevertheless, the case of alien abduction belief teaches us that clinically abnormal reasoning need not be a part of our explanatory toolbox when we’re seeking to see why many of us believe strange things – perhaps what’s going on is perfectly normal range irrationality.
And so, although we might expect to learn little about aliens from the Facebook organized Area fifty-one raiding party, the presence of the participants of its may shed light on what’s taking place in clinical cases of delusion. To put it in probably the crudest terms, in the presence of anomalous experiences, it’s normal for humans to form bizarre beliefs.
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