Robert Sheaffer Since people have heard about the study of +quot;imaginary UFO abductees+q

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Robert Sheaffer Since people have heard about the study of "imaginary UFO abductees" (as if they were different from "real" ones!), and are asking about them, I am posting the following summary of a talk by Dr. Alvin Lawson, who performed the study. HYPNOSIS OF IMAGINARY UFO "ABDUCTEES" (Abstract and Introduction only) by Alvin H. Lawson English Department California State University, Long Beach California, U.S.A 90840 In an attempt to evaluate objectively the claims of UFO "abductees," imaginary abductions were induced hypnotically in a group of volunteers who had no significant knowledge of UFOs. Eight situational questions comprising the major components of a typical abduction account were asked of each subject. Although the researchers expected major dissimilarities, an averaged comparison of data from four imaginary and four "real" abduction narratives showed no substantive differences. Also, extensive patterns echoing well-established details from "real" UFO reports emerged from the "naive" subjects' imaginary sessions. There is as yet no satisfactory explanation for the patterns and other similarities between imaginary and "real" abductions, But, more significantly, there are parallels between these patterns and the "image constants" or recurrent descriptions of form, color, and movement reported by subjects in drug-induced hallucination experiments, and in SO-called "death" narratives, among other mental processes. Thus there is reason to accept at least some parts of "real" abductees' stories as accurate reflections of what their sensory mechanisms have reported. However, despite the many similarities, there are crucial differences--such as alleged physical effects and multiple witnesses--which argue that UFO abductions are separate and distinct from imaginary and hallucinatory experiences. With these distinctions in mind, an abduction model is proposed: Witnesses _really perceive_ images--from whatever source--such as bright and pulsating lights, lattice- textured forms moving randomly in the sky, lighted tunnels, humanoid figures, etc. These abduction constants are combined with data from the imagination, memory, and existing UFO data known by witnesses to create a "real" UFO encounter. The subjective reality of the intense hallucinatory structure convinces the witnesses that the entire experience is a physically real event. Subsequently they may report the "truth" as they have experienced it, although actual occurrences remain unclear. The complexities of the UFO phenomenon are affirmed by the above model since still unexplained are many puzzling matters, including the greatest mystery of all, the nature of the stimulus which initiates the imagery in the witness and so triggers the abduction sequence. The writer prefers a dualistic UFO hypothesis. But while there is a continuing absence of unambiguous physical evidence, this study concludes that UFOs are--in psychological terms--unquestionably real, and further, that non-physical UFO research is promising. Key-words: Abduction sequence; animals; apparitions ; "death" narratives; drug-induced hallucinations; entities; exotic; hallucinations; human; humanoid; hypnosis; image constants; imaginary abductees; model abduction; "naive" subjects; patterns; "real" abductees; robot; stimulus. II. INTRODUCTION Since early 1977, sixteen volunteers have been hypnotized and given imaginary UFO "abductions" by a clinical hypnotist working with a group of Southern California ufologists.* The purpose of this paper is to describe the series of experiments and to discuss their implications for UFO research in the light of several analogs to abduction experiences, particularly drug- induced hallucinations. The imaginary "abductees" were volunteers from local colleges and communities. The group was composed of ten females and six males and ranged in age from 12 to 65. Based upon a brief questionnaire, the oral portion of which was administered before and again during hypnosis as a check, all subjects were judged to be "naive"--that is, generally ignorant about UFOs and the extensive if uneven literature about them. The imaginary abduction study came about primarily because of researchers' dissatisfactions with results from allegedly real abduction case investigations. Objections included: 1) the uncertain credibility of witnesses; 2) the ambiguous nature of the anecdotal and other evidence supporting abduction witnesses; and 3) unresolved questions as to the efficacy of hypnosis and/or hypnotic procedures followed in particular cases. The researchers be*an the study with the assumption that the imaginary abductions would be clearly distinct from "real" cases and so would offer some proof of the "reality" of actual abductions. But what we found was both surprising and unsettling, and much of the intervening time has been spent in trying to deal with the implications of those results. -------------------------------------------------------- *The group included Dr. W.C, McCall, John De Herrera, and the author. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 1977 MUFON UFO Symposium (Scottsdale, Ariz.), and at the 1978 meeting of the American Psychological Association (Toronto).


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