At my local library the other day, to my surprise and delight, I found a copy of "The Fortean Times" (FT) magazine. Inside was a piece by UFOlogist Peter Hough about fantasy proneness. Later, I found the same piece was available on the FT's website. Two people had left comments, one of whom was Adelaide's Keith Basterfield. Keith listed seven studies taking a look at the question of whether or not UFO experiencers rate higher on a scale measuring fantasy proneness than controls. With Keith's permission I reproduce his FT comments.
1. Ring, K & Rosing, C (1990.) "The Omega Project: A Psychological Survey of Persons Reporting Abductions and Other UFO Encounters." Journal of UFO Studies new series 2:59-98.
"...UFO experiencers in general, while not more fantasy-prone than their controls..." p59.
2. Rodeghier, M; Goodpaster, J; Blatterbauer, S. (1991.) Psychosocial Characteristics of Abductees:Results from the CUFOS Abduction Project." Journal of UFO Studies new series 3:59-90.
"...we found that our subjects as a whole cannot be characterised as fantasy-prone..." p80.
3. Spanos, N P; Cross, P A; Dickson, K; DuBreuil, S C. (1993.) "Close Encounters: An Examination of UFO Experience." Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 102(4):624-632.
"On a battery of objective tests Ss in the 2 groups did not score...more fantasy-prone...than a community comparison group or a student comparison group." Abstract.
4. Gow, K; Lurie, J; Coppin, S; Popper, A; Powell, A; Basterfield, K. (2001.) "Fantasy Proneness and Other Psychological Correlates of UFO Experience." European Journal of UFO and Abduction Studies. 2(2):45-66.
"Firstly, it was found that all UFO experience groups scored significantly higher on the ICMI than did controls." p61.
5. Hough, P and Rogers, P. (2007.) "Individuals who Report Being Abducted by Aliens: Investigating the Differences in Fantasy Proneness, Emotional Intelligence and the Big Five Personality Factors." Imagination, Cognition and Personality. 27(2):139-161.
"...no group differences in any of the three fantasy sub-scales..." Abstract.
6. French, C C; Santomauro, J; Hamilton, V; Fox, R; Thalbourne, M A (2008.) "Psychological Aspects of the Alien Contact Experience." Cortex 44(10):1387-1395.
"Experiencers were found to show higher levels of...fantasy proness..." Abstract.
7. LeLieuvre, R B; Larson, T; Remington, H. (2008.) "Ring's "Omega Project" Revisited: Antecedents and Consequents of UFO Encounters and Alien Abductions." MUFON Journal Mar 2008 pp8-11.
"Experimental subjects...were also slightly more prone to fantasy than control subjects..." p10.
Out of the seven studies, items 1,2,3,5 report that experiencers are not more fantasy-prone than controls, while items 4,6 & 7 reveal that experiencers are more fantasy prone than controls.
Hough in his FT piece commented about the nature of the definition of "experiencers", "abductees" and "contactees" used in the various studies he cites (Keith lists more studies than Hough). A quick look at four studies revealed:
1. Gow et al - 155 controls, 19 UFO sighters, 12 UFO contactees and 12 UFO abductees.
2. Hough & Rogers - 26 experiencers and 26 controls.
3. French et al - 19 UK based experiencers, and some controls.
4. LeLieuvre et al - 19 controls and 11 experiencers (8 significant sighting of a craft, 2 humanoids close by a craft, 1 lifelong abductions.)
Two things are evident to me. One, that the numbers of "expereincers" are low in all studies. Two, that we are not talking about studying "UFO abductees" as defined by the 1991 CUFOS definition, which is:
"1. A witness must be taken against his or her will from normal terrestrial surroundings by non-human beings.
2. These beings must take the witness to another enclosed space that is not terrestrial in appearance and is assumed or known by the witness to be a spacecraft.
3. In this place, the witness must either be subjected to various procedures that appear to be examinations of some type, engage in communication (verbal or telepathic) with the beings or both.
4. These experiences may be remembered consciously or through various means of focused concentration, such as hypnosis, or by a combination of the two.
Rodeghier, M; Goodpaster, J & Blatterbauer, S. (1991.) "Psychosocial Characteristics of Abductees:Results from the CUFOS Abduction Project." JUFOS ns 3:64.
This is a very strict definition, but squarely defines an "abduction" in classical terms.
Gow et al used the following definition in their study:
"When a person is taken from a normal terrestrial environment and finds themselves in a non-terrestrial environment, where they meet non-human beings, and engage in some form of experience there, before being returned to a normal terrestrial environment."
Obviously, for the purpose of conducting the above seven studies, defining who is an "abductee" or "experiencer" is an issue.
However, problems of definition aside, at least seven studies have been published which throw some light on the Fantasy-Prone hypothesis.
Speaking of which, where did the idea of linking UFO abductions and fantasy-proneness come from? I must take a look into its origins. A topic for a future post?