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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

Abducted! How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

Dr. Susan Clancy

There is no evidence that aliens have been visiting Earth and abducting humans. So how could anyone believe he or she was abducted by aliens? To answer this question, Harvard post-doc psychologist Susan Clancy interviewed and evaluated ‘abductees,’ listening closely to their stories — how they struggled to explain something strange in their remembered experience, how abduction seemed plausible, and how, having suspected abduction, they began to recollect it, aided by suggestion and hypnosis. Clancy argues that abductees are sane and intelligent people who have unwittingly created vivid false memories from a toxic mix of nightmares, culturally available texts (abduction reports began only after stories of extraterrestrials appeared in films and on TV), and a powerful drive for meaning that science is unable to satisfy. For them, otherworldly terror can become a transforming, even inspiring experience.

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