The expression ‘Fantasy-prone personality’ was first coined by psychologists Cheryl Wilson and Theodore Barber in the 1980s, in reference to research they conducted on hypnotic susceptibility. In the study, Wilson and Barber interview 27 ‘highly-hypnotizable’ women and found that 26 of them shared “a series of interrelated characteristics, a syndrome or personality type that they labeled as fantasy-prone personality.” When they compared the test with 25 women volunteers from a nearby college, only one of the students was highly hypnotizable. Though there has been very little research to replicate the work, the idea that there is a single personality that is susceptible to a variety of fantasies has caught on—particularly when it comes to phenomena like alien abduction.
Though most scientists believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life, psychologists are less convinced about alleged “abductions.” And despite the fact that is considered rare, a significant number of people believe they have experienced alien abduction. That correlates with a growing belief in aliens, which has increased steadily since the birth of modern alien research in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2015, belief in aliens in Western cultures was as high as 50 percent.
And while it’s tempting to dismiss alien abductions as ‘hoaxes’, there is no reason to assume that that the majority of “experiences” are frauds. Here are some of other the scientific explanations psychologists have introduced for alien abductions:
In addition to personality traits, there are other psychological explanations, such as disassociation—where an individual’s mental processes detach each other from reality, typically in response to stressful life events. A tendency toward being fantasy-prone and dissociation has been linked in studies to childhood trauma. Psychologists have linked alien abduction experiences to personality characteristics and susceptibility to false memories.
Studies have also suggested neuropsychological theories, like sleep paralysis and temporal lobe sensitivity, could be linked to claims of alien abduction. Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious and unable to move that typically occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. Experiencers’ claims share characteristics with sleep paralysis.
Temporal lobe sensitivity is a theory that suggests that temporal lobes of some people’s brains are more vulnerable to influence from low-level magnetic frequencies. Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in Canada, believes that magnetic fields stimulate the temporal lobes, resulting in hallucinatory experiences.
Source: Skepdic.com, Newsweek.com