I’m still getting caught up on some items I want to make sure readers know about after my recent “finish The Portent draft or die” session of the last two weeks. A couple days ago I directed readers to Jack Brewer’s UFO Trail about true conspiracy theories. I have one more post from the UFO Trail that should not go unnoticed. This one is about the use of hypnotic regression in ufology: “You’re Getting Sleepy… and Misled: Regression Hypnosis in Ufology.”
Honestly, calling Jack’s essay a post doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like an expose — and a thoughtful one at that, full of serious information and useful links.
To say the least, the use of hypnosis in regard to alleged alien abductions is controversial within the ufology community. If you’re simply embracing the idea of such abductions without ever looking into the problems, flaws, and misuse of hypnosis techniques, you can’t claim to be seriously engaging the subject. I’ve blogged several times on this here (mostly quite a while). There’s a lot of good information on the web from serious researchers on memory and hypnosis. This is a good example of an issue that has gotten attention from the mainstream. While there is naturally skepticism over alien contact, one of the things driving that skepticism is the problematic nature of recovered memories. In other words, you can’t dismiss the problems by saying researchers are creating data because they’re skeptical. Rather, they’re skeptical of the whole idea because recovered memory research reveals significant problems in not just accuracy, but distortion. Here is a sampling:
- Clancy, “Memory distortion in people reporting abduction by aliens,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 111(3), Aug 2002, 455-461.
- Clancy and McNally, “Sleep Paralysis, Sexual Abuse, and Space Alien Abduction,” Transcultural Psychiatry 42:1 (March 2005): 113-122
- Meyersburg, et. al., “False Memory Propensity in People Reporting Recovered Memories of Past Lives,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 118:2 (2009): 399-404 (search this one for the word “alien” or read through it)
In short, hypnotic regression and the memories it allegedly “retrieves” is not a sound method for genuine memory retrieval. Personally, I don’t think the research invalidates every claim or every part of every claim. I just wouldn’t trust the method at all. Other approaches ought to take precedence care to preventing the sorts of flawed results noted in studies like these. Readers know I don’t buy the idea that aliens are abducting people (I’d need to know there are aliens and they’re coming here; that’s a reasonable starting point). I’m in the Leah Haley camp, that some of this stuff is real but has nothing to do with aliens.