Can alien abductions be elucidated scientifically as a product of sleep paralysis, false memory, dreams, or just an overactive imagination? The abductees say that they were awakened from sleep and transported to an alien spacecraft. The description of which usually begins with what sounds like an episode of sleep paralysis.
Up to 60 percent of people have experienced sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis transpires just prior to falling asleep, or while awakening (Spanos, Cross & DuBreuil, 1993). The brain and body temporarily desynchronize when waking from REM sleep. This causes the body to remain paralyzed during REM sleep, and allowing the mind to be fully cognizant of its surroundings. Technically this experience cannot be classified as either awake or asleep. A small percentage of people who experience sleep paralysis do so in juxtaposition with terrifying hallucinations (Perina, 2003). These hallucinations vary, for example; people often feel tingling sensations, weightlessness, hear buzzing noises, and see flashing lights and figures around one’s bed. This rarely lasts for long, no more than a few minutes at which point the hallucinations and paralysis end. The individual believing something transpired during sleep may see a hypnotherapist to gain understanding of the experience (Clancy, McNally, Schacter, Lenzenweger, & Pitman 2002). During hypnotic regression, memories of abduction may surface. They can be so terrifying that the experiencer may believe they are afflicted with a serious neurological problem. Rather than accepting the prospect of insanity, they believe aliens abducted them, as it seems less outlandish (Perina, 2003).
It is believed by some that trauma can lead to amnesia, blocking memories that are too traumatic for the conscious mind to retain. Advocates of recovered memories believe the formerly repressed memories influence behavior while repressed and can be recalled years later with little distortion of detail. Additional psychologists express skepticism, believing that memories can be created, and question why recovered memories would differ from non-traumatic memories. Skeptics warn that hypnotherapy may actually create false memories (Clancy, McNally, Schacter, Lenzenweger, & Pitman, 2002).
Researchers have investigated how abductees may have created their false memories. One method clearly involved is source monitoring. Source monitoring is remembering how, when, and where a memory is obtained. Memories of past events may get confused, producing distorted memories. An abductee might watch a movie about alien abductions as a child, and years later come to believe the events were experienced, as the source of the memory was forgotten (Clancy, McNally, Schacter, Lenzenweger, & Pitman, 2002).
We do not record our experiences as memory pictures on videotape. Experiences are restored in the light of current understanding using available schemas. For example; a study proved that a sentence like “The...