A summary of "Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens"
This is a summary of the article by Clancy et al., 2002. The prevalence of alien abduction stories has been increasing in recent history (Bartholomew& Howard, 1998; Newman & Baumeister, 1997). Psychologists have more recently interpreted the stories as evidence of memory distortion (Newman & Baumeister, 1997). Previously published accounts of abduction follow a certain pattern (Hopkins, 1981; Mack, 1994; Streiber, 1987). These narratives share features that are considered a cultural phenomenon due to the media (Lynn, Pintar, Stafford, Marmelstein & Lock, 1998). Sleep paralysis is a non-pathological incident. During sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs, during which the body experiences full body paralysis. If a person wakes during REM sleep, they may experience this paralysis consciously. Full body paralysis lasts no more than a couple of minutes. Hallucinations may be experienced at this time (Hufford, 1982; Spanos et al., 1993). These hallucinations are sometimes interpreted as the aftermath of an alien abduction. These people often seek therapy to recall what happened prior to full consciousness but after sleep was achieved (Lynn, Pintar, Stafford, Marmelstein & Lock, 1998). Only 15% of those who experience sleep paralysis also conclude that an abduction was the cause (Hufford, 1982).
The Deese/Roediger-McDermott paradigm was used to study false recall and recognition in three groups: recovered memory, repressed memory and a control, where no abductions were claimed. Four hypotheses were tested. 1) The recovered memory group should show higher false recall and recognition than the repressed memory and control group. 2) Recovered memory and repressed memory groups should score higher on false recall and recognition than the control group. 3) Recovered memory group should score highest, followed by repressed memory group, followed by the control group. 4) Recovered memory and repressed memory groups should score higher than the control groups on a schizotypal tendency measurement. Methods
The experimental groups (recovered memory and repressed memory) were recruited through a local newspaper in the Harvard area. The advertisement sought out those who claim to have been contacted or abducted by aliens to participate in a memory study. Harvard also advertised for the control group in a local newspaper looking for participants to engage in a memory study. The recovered memory group consisted of six men and five women. They all shared a similar sequence of events in their abduction memories. All members of this group independently sought explanations and consequently recovered memories of abductions. The repressed memory group consisted of five men and four women. They all described events that they concluded afterwards to be an abduction. Yet, none in this group have any memories of the abduction. The control group consisted of seven men and six women. None in this group reported ever having been abducted. All participants signed an informed consent form and were paid for their time in the study. Measures
Participants completed several inventories prior to their laboratory visit. These tests assess symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder, hypnotic susceptibility, depersonalization (along with memory lapse and absorption) and depression. The final inventory measured four schizotypal and schizophrenia- related measures: perceptual aberration, unconventional forms of causation, and ideas of reference and extreme manifestation of schizophrenia liability. A one-way ANOVA showed no evidence of differences in age or education among groups. Materials
Participants were presented with word lists that share a common theme within the list. The lists were randomly picked from 24 lists. The lists chosen were then randomly assigned to contain 0, 3,...