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A SURVEY OF UFOLOGISTS AND THEIR BELIEFS IN UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA

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  • Royce Holleman
    A SURVEY OF UFOLOGISTS AND THEIR BELIEFS IN UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA by Donald A. Johnson, Ph.D. P.O. Box 161, Kirkland, WA 98083-0161 MUFON Consultant in
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 12, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      A SURVEY OF UFOLOGISTS AND THEIR BELIEFS IN UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA


      by Donald A. Johnson, Ph.D.

      P.O. Box 161, Kirkland, WA 98083-0161

      MUFON Consultant in Research Psychology


      In order to learn what beliefs UFOlogists hold about

      paranormal phenomena--particularly parapsychological phenomena--and

      to determine whether a relationship exists between witnessing UFO

      events and belief in psychic abilities, I conducted a small survey

      of attendees of the 1983 MUFON Symposium, held in Pasadena,

      California. This report presents the results from that survey.


      There were three things I hoped to accomplish by conducting

      this survey. The first goal was mainly descriptive: to determine

      what pattern of beliefs exists among UFOlogists in the various

      paranomal phenomena listed in the questionnaire. I thought it

      would be interesting to find out to what degree these beliefs

      differ from those held by the general public. The comparison data

      was supplied by a survey of 1553 adults conducted by the Gallup

      Poll in February 1978. The results were reported by Jeff Sobal and

      Charles Emmons in the Zetetic Scholar (1).


      The second purpose of the survey was to discover if UFO

      witnesses differ significantly from non-witnesses in their beliefs

      in unexplained phenomena, and especially to determine whether UFO

      witnesses have higher rates of belief in unexplained phenomena.

      Such a finding, if replicated, might lead to the conclusion that

      UFO witnesses, as a group, have a lower threshold of acceptance for

      phenomena not recognized or explained by current scientific

      paradigms. It could suggest that they are less skeptical and more

      credulous than non-witnesses. Evidence of this kind would tend to

      cast doubt on the validity of at least some UFO eyewitness

      testimony, because the ability of these observers to distinguish

      inexplicable phenomena from everyday events would be called into

      question.


      The third objective was to test the hypothesis that a

      relationship exists between belief in ones own psychic abilities

      and the witnessing of UFO phenomena. A correspondence between

      belief in psychic ability and witnessing UFO events has been

      hypothesized by a number of authors, and some tentative evidence to

      support such a relationship was presented by Benton Jamison (2) at

      the 1976 C.U.F.O.S. Conference. This relationship, should it

      exist, could have a variety of causes. It could be that greater

      open-mindedness and perceptiveness on the part of psychic UFO

      witnesses allows them to witness possibly paranormal aspects of the

      UFO phenomena, it might be that psychic individuals are selected to

      witness UFO events, or it could be that so-called "psychics" are

      simply more gullible and more easily fooled by misperceived stimuli.


      The survey was designed to elicit beliefs about UFOs and other

      unexplained phenonena. Two hundred questionnaires were distributed

      at the conference, and 70 completed questionnaires were returned,

      representing a 35% response rate. However, some of the

      participants were allowed to take and keep an extra copy of the

      questionnaire, so the actual participation rate may be higher.

      Since this is a "convenience" sample and not a true probability

      sample of UFO researchers, inferences about the generalizability of

      the results are generally not warranted. However, it is my opinion

      that the answers provided by the sample probably reflect the views

      of a sub-population of those individuals indentified as

      "UFOlogists". This group consists of those people with enough

      interest in the UFO phenomenon to attend a conference, and with

      sufficient interest in the general purposes of this survey to

      participate.


      The questionnaire consisted of two brief paragraphs describing

      the study, three questions on respondent's beliefs regarding the

      UFO phenomenon, twelve questions on other unexplained phenomena

      drawn from the Gallup Poll survey, four questions on belief in

      one's own psychic abilities, and two questions on how often the

      respondent had witnessed a UFO. All questionnaires were completed

      anonymously. In addition to completing the above mentioned items,

      participants were asked to supply information about their age, sex,

      race, education, and marital status.


      A few survey participants objected to using the term "belief"

      to define their opinions about the existence of paranormal

      phenomena. While I readily concede that the word is not the best

      choice of terms because of the religious connotation associated

      with its use, it was necessary to retain the terminology used by

      the Gallup Poll to insure comparability with their results. I

      don't believe that it interfered with anyone's interpretation of

      the meaning of the questions.


      Results. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents were male, and

      the sample was nearly equally split between married (49%) and

      unmarried (51%) individuals. Ninety-one percent listed their

      racial or ethnic group as White, while 3% were Hispanic, 3% Black,

      and 3% Asian. Two of the Black respondents also indicated they

      were part American Indian. Only two of the respondents were

      younger than thirty. In general, survey participants tended to be

      middle-aged and very well educated, as Table 1 shows. Almost half

      (46%) of the respondents had witnessed at least one UFO, and

      one-third reported having seen UFOs on more than one occasion.


      Table 1


      Age and Education of MUFON Respondents


      Age Category Percent


      18-29 years 3

      30-49 years 24

      40-49 years 30

      50-64 years 28

      65 years and over 15

      ---

      100%


      Educational level


      11 years or less 0

      12 years 8

      13-15 years 25

      16 years 28

      17 years or more 39

      ---

      100%


      If we assume that the sample of UFOlogists is truely

      representative of a larger population, than we can disregard for

      the moment the inappropriateness of applying statistical tests to

      the results of a "convenience" sample. Concerning the first goal

      of the survey, it turns out that UFOlogists can be categorized as

      similar to the general public in their beliefs in paranormal

      activity, except that they are significantly less likely to believe

      in angels, devils, and astrology, and significantly more likely to

      believe in evidence for psychic phenomena and the existence of

      valid cryptozoologic claims. Table 2 presents the results of the

      beliefs questions.

      Table 2


      Belief in UFOs and Other Unexplained Phenomena by MUFON Sample


      Percent of Respondents

      No ? Yes

      UFOs are real rather than imaginary 1 3 96 100%

      UFOs are intelligently controlled

      devices 6 8 86 100%

      UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors 4 26 70 100%


      Do you believe in:

      Angels 48 24 26 100%

      Devils 59 28 13 100%

      Life After Death 18 19 63 100%

      Loch Ness Monster 13 46 41 100%

      Bigfoot (Sasquatch) 10 52 38 100%

      Witches 62 23 15 100%

      Ghosts 38 31 31 100%

      Astrology 63 21 16 100%

      ESP 9 23 68 100%

      Precognition 11 25 64 100%

      Deja vu 14 41 45 100%

      Clairvoyance 16 25 58 100%


      In general, the Gallup Poll results reveal that the more

      education one has the more likely one is to believe in psychic

      abilities. When compared to only those with college training, the

      differences in belief in psychic phenomena become less noticeable.

      Belief in precognition and clairvoyance are still significantly

      more common among UFOlogists than among the college trained general

      public, but no significant differences remain for "ESP" or "deja

      vu".


      The results on whether UFOlogists who report having seen a UFO

      differ in their beliefs from UFOlogists who have never had a UFO

      sighting are not definitive. On the one hand, there was a trend

      among some who have witnessed the UFO phenomenon to be less

      critical of other unexplained phenomenon. However, the sample size

      is not sufficient to make any conclusions about that trend. The

      data are reported in Table 3. The data are presented in two ways:

      with the percentage who had responded "yes" to each of the "do you

      believe in" statements; and as an average of the numeric values of

      the responses, with "no" coded 1, "?" coded 2, and "yes" coded 3.

      There were 31 who reported having had at least one UFO sighting and

      36 who reported not having had any sightings.


      Table 3


      Comparison of the beliefs of UFO witnesses and non-witnesses


      Witnesses Non-witnesses

      % Yes Ave. % Yes Ave.

      UFOs are real rather than imaginary 100 3.00 92 2.89

      UFOs are intelligently controlled

      devices 94 2.90 78 2.69

      UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors 77 2.77 61 2.52


      Do you believe in:

      Angels 43 2.17 17 1.56

      Devils 21 1.75 8 1.42

      Life After Death 76 2.66 51 2.29

      Loch Ness Monster 48 2.41 36 2.19

      Bigfoot 50 2.43 31 2.19

      Witches 24 1.76 8 1.36

      Ghosts 45 2.17 22 1.81

      Astrology 21 1.66 14 1.47

      ESP 73 2.63 64 2.56

      Precognition 69 2.58 63 2.54

      Deja vu 54 2.39 40 2.29

      Clairvoyance 68 2.54 53 2.39


      The differences between the two groups were greatest for

      beliefs in religious phenomena such as angels and life after death,

      and for the "Halloween" associated phenomena of ghosts and

      witches. While these differences prove nothing, they do suggest

      that the non-witnesses show more skepticism in general, which might

      lead one to infer that they also have a higher threshold for

      rejecting unusual phenomena they personally observe as lacking a

      mundane explanation. Conversely, it may also be seen as evidence

      suggesting that at least some UFO witnesses are less skeptical and

      more credulous that non-witnesses. In one respect, "seeing" does

      seem to equate with "believing": respondents who had witnessed

      UFOs more than once were significantly more likely to say that UFOs

      are extraterrestrial visitors (87%) than those who had never

      witnessed the UFO phenomenon or had witnessed it only once (59%).


      There were no significant differences between a belief in ones

      own psychic abilities and whether or not one has personally

      witnessed the UFO phenomenon. Table 4 displays these results for

      both witnesses and non-witnesses. However, there were significant

      differences for the number of UFO encounters for both belief in

      pre-cognition ability and psychokinesis ability. Those who

      responded yes to the pre-cognition question reported an average of

      2.9 UFO sightings compared to an average of one UFO sighting for

      the remainder of the sample. Those who felt they had an ability

      with psychokinesis reportedly had seen UFOs an average of 3.33

      times, compared to 1.1 times for those who said they did not have

      the ability or weren't sure.




      Table 4


      Comparison of the psychic ability beliefs of

      UFO witnesses and non-witnesses


      Witnesses Non-witnesses

      % Yes Ave. % Yes Ave.

      Believe have some ability to gain

      extra-sensory perceptions (ESP) of

      thoughts and feelings of other

      people (telepathy)? 48 2.32 53 2.25


      Believe have some ability to gain

      impressions of events or objects

      which are outside usual environ-

      ment (clairvoyance)? 45 2.10 36 1.92


      Believe have some ability to gain

      impressions of future events

      (pre-cognition)? 42 2.16 33 1.86


      Believe have some ability to

      influence the physical environment

      around you (psychokinesis or "mind

      over matter")? 27 1.76 19 1.64



      This last finding is interesting, but it is certainly

      preliminary and open to a wide variety of interpretations. As I

      mentioned previously, "psychics" may simply be more gullible and

      more apt to misinterpret ambiguous stimuli, or it might be that

      they are actually more perceptive and that this perceptiveness has

      some relation to the UFO phenomenon. Before we lend further

      credence to this latter interpretation it would behoove us to test

      these individuals under controlled, laboratory conditions; to

      determine whether these abilities can indeed be proven to exist.


      References


      (1) Sobal, Jeff and Charles F. Emmons (1982). Patterns of belief

      in religious, psychic and other paranormal phenomena,

      Zetetic Scholar, no. 9 (March 1982), pp. 7-17.


      (2) Jamison, Benton (1976). Some proposals: Modest, immodest,

      and maybe fundable. In Nancy Dourbos (ed.), Proceedings

      of the 1976 CUFOS Conference. Evanston, IL: Center for

      UFO Studies, pp. 119-132.









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      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Royce Holleman
      A SURVEY OF UFOLOGISTS AND THEIR BELIEFS IN UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA by Donald A. Johnson, Ph.D. P.O. Box 161, Kirkland, WA 98083-0161 MUFON Consultant in
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 8, 2008
      • 0 Attachment
        A SURVEY OF UFOLOGISTS AND THEIR BELIEFS IN UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA

        by Donald A. Johnson, Ph.D.
        P.O. Box 161, Kirkland, WA 98083-0161
        MUFON Consultant in Research Psychology

        In order to learn what beliefs UFOlogists hold about
        paranormal phenomena--particularly parapsychological phenomena--and
        to determine whether a relationship exists between witnessing UFO
        events and belief in psychic abilities, I conducted a small survey
        of attendees of the 1983 MUFON Symposium, held in Pasadena,
        California. This report presents the results from that survey.

        There were three things I hoped to accomplish by conducting
        this survey. The first goal was mainly descriptive: to determine
        what pattern of beliefs exists among UFOlogists in the various
        paranomal phenomena listed in the questionnaire. I thought it
        would be interesting to find out to what degree these beliefs
        differ from those held by the general public. The comparison data
        was supplied by a survey of 1553 adults conducted by the Gallup
        Poll in February 1978. The results were reported by Jeff Sobal and
        Charles Emmons in the Zetetic Scholar (1).

        The second purpose of the survey was to discover if UFO
        witnesses differ significantly from non-witnesses in their beliefs
        in unexplained phenomena, and especially to determine whether UFO
        witnesses have higher rates of belief in unexplained phenomena.
        Such a finding, if replicated, might lead to the conclusion that
        UFO witnesses, as a group, have a lower threshold of acceptance for
        phenomena not recognized or explained by current scientific
        paradigms. It could suggest that they are less skeptical and more
        credulous than non-witnesses. Evidence of this kind would tend to
        cast doubt on the validity of at least some UFO eyewitness
        testimony, because the ability of these observers to distinguish
        inexplicable phenomena from everyday events would be called into
        question.

        The third objective was to test the hypothesis that a
        relationship exists between belief in ones own psychic abilities
        and the witnessing of UFO phenomena. A correspondence between
        belief in psychic ability and witnessing UFO events has been
        hypothesized by a number of authors, and some tentative evidence to
        support such a relationship was presented by Benton Jamison (2) at
        the 1976 C.U.F.O.S. Conference. This relationship, should it
        exist, could have a variety of causes. It could be that greater
        open-mindedness and perceptiveness on the part of psychic UFO
        witnesses allows them to witness possibly paranormal aspects of the
        UFO phenomena, it might be that psychic individuals are selected to
        witness UFO events, or it could be that so-called "psychics" are
        simply more gullible and more easily fooled by misperceived stimuli.

        The survey was designed to elicit beliefs about UFOs and other
        unexplained phenonena. Two hundred questionnaires were distributed
        at the conference, and 70 completed questionnaires were returned,
        representing a 35% response rate. However, some of the
        participants were allowed to take and keep an extra copy of the
        questionnaire, so the actual participation rate may be higher.
        Since this is a "convenience" sample and not a true probability
        sample of UFO researchers, inferences about the generalizability of
        the results are generally not warranted. However, it is my opinion
        that the answers provided by the sample probably reflect the views
        of a sub-population of those individuals indentified as
        "UFOlogists". This group consists of those people with enough
        interest in the UFO phenomenon to attend a conference, and with
        sufficient interest in the general purposes of this survey to
        participate.

        The questionnaire consisted of two brief paragraphs describing
        the study, three questions on respondent's beliefs regarding the
        UFO phenomenon, twelve questions on other unexplained phenomena
        drawn from the Gallup Poll survey, four questions on belief in
        one's own psychic abilities, and two questions on how often the
        respondent had witnessed a UFO. All questionnaires were completed
        anonymously. In addition to completing the above mentioned items,
        participants were asked to supply information about their age, sex,
        race, education, and marital status.

        A few survey participants objected to using the term "belief"
        to define their opinions about the existence of paranormal
        phenomena. While I readily concede that the word is not the best
        choice of terms because of the religious connotation associated
        with its use, it was necessary to retain the terminology used by
        the Gallup Poll to insure comparability with their results. I
        don't believe that it interfered with anyone's interpretation of
        the meaning of the questions.

        Results. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents were male, and
        the sample was nearly equally split between married (49%) and
        unmarried (51%) individuals. Ninety-one percent listed their
        racial or ethnic group as White, while 3% were Hispanic, 3% Black,
        and 3% Asian. Two of the Black respondents also indicated they
        were part American Indian. Only two of the respondents were
        younger than thirty. In general, survey participants tended to be
        middle-aged and very well educated, as Table 1 shows. Almost half
        (46%) of the respondents had witnessed at least one UFO, and
        one-third reported having seen UFOs on more than one occasion.

        Table 1

        Age and Education of MUFON Respondents

        Age Category Percent

        18-29 years 3
        30-49 years 24
        40-49 years 30
        50-64 years 28
        65 years and over 15
        ---
        100%

        Educational level

        11 years or less 0
        12 years 8
        13-15 years 25
        16 years 28
        17 years or more 39
        ---
        100%

        If we assume that the sample of UFOlogists is truely
        representative of a larger population, than we can disregard for
        the moment the inappropriateness of applying statistical tests to
        the results of a "convenience" sample. Concerning the first goal
        of the survey, it turns out that UFOlogists can be categorized as
        similar to the general public in their beliefs in paranormal
        activity, except that they are significantly less likely to believe
        in angels, devils, and astrology, and significantly more likely to
        believe in evidence for psychic phenomena and the existence of
        valid cryptozoologic claims. Table 2 presents the results of the
        beliefs questions.

        Table 2

        Belief in UFOs and Other Unexplained Phenomena by MUFON Sample

        Percent of Respondents
        No ? Yes
        UFOs are real rather than imaginary 1 3 96 100%
        UFOs are intelligently controlled
        devices 6 8 86 100%
        UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors 4 26 70 100%

        Do you believe in:
        Angels 48 24 26 100%
        Devils 59 28 13 100%
        Life After Death 18 19 63 100%
        Loch Ness Monster 13 46 41 100%
        Bigfoot (Sasquatch) 10 52 38 100%
        Witches 62 23 15 100%
        Ghosts 38 31 31 100%
        Astrology 63 21 16 100%
        ESP 9 23 68 100%
        Precognition 11 25 64 100%
        Deja vu 14 41 45 100%
        Clairvoyance 16 25 58 100%

        In general, the Gallup Poll results reveal that the more
        education one has the more likely one is to believe in psychic
        abilities. When compared to only those with college training, the
        differences in belief in psychic phenomena become less noticeable.
        Belief in precognition and clairvoyance are still significantly
        more common among UFOlogists than among the college trained general
        public, but no significant differences remain for "ESP" or "deja
        vu".

        The results on whether UFOlogists who report having seen a UFO
        differ in their beliefs from UFOlogists who have never had a UFO
        sighting are not definitive. On the one hand, there was a trend
        among some who have witnessed the UFO phenomenon to be less
        critical of other unexplained phenomenon. However, the sample size
        is not sufficient to make any conclusions about that trend. The
        data are reported in Table 3. The data are presented in two ways:
        with the percentage who had responded "yes" to each of the "do you
        believe in" statements; and as an average of the numeric values of
        the responses, with "no" coded 1, "?" coded 2, and "yes" coded 3.
        There were 31 who reported having had at least one UFO sighting and
        36 who reported not having had any sightings.

        Table 3

        Comparison of the beliefs of UFO witnesses and non-witnesses

        Witnesses Non-witnesses
        % Yes Ave. % Yes Ave.
        UFOs are real rather than imaginary 100 3.00 92 2.89
        UFOs are intelligently controlled
        devices 94 2.90 78 2.69
        UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors 77 2.77 61 2.52

        Do you believe in:
        Angels 43 2.17 17 1.56
        Devils 21 1.75 8 1.42
        Life After Death 76 2.66 51 2.29
        Loch Ness Monster 48 2.41 36 2.19
        Bigfoot 50 2.43 31 2.19
        Witches 24 1.76 8 1.36
        Ghosts 45 2.17 22 1.81
        Astrology 21 1.66 14 1.47
        ESP 73 2.63 64 2.56
        Precognition 69 2.58 63 2.54
        Deja vu 54 2.39 40 2.29
        Clairvoyance 68 2.54 53 2.39

        The differences between the two groups were greatest for
        beliefs in religious phenomena such as angels and life after death,
        and for the "Halloween" associated phenomena of ghosts and
        witches. While these differences prove nothing, they do suggest
        that the non-witnesses show more skepticism in general, which might
        lead one to infer that they also have a higher threshold for
        rejecting unusual phenomena they personally observe as lacking a
        mundane explanation. Conversely, it may also be seen as evidence
        suggesting that at least some UFO witnesses are less skeptical and
        more credulous that non-witnesses. In one respect, "seeing" does
        seem to equate with "believing": respondents who had witnessed
        UFOs more than once were significantly more likely to say that UFOs
        are extraterrestrial visitors (87%) than those who had never
        witnessed the UFO phenomenon or had witnessed it only once (59%).

        There were no significant differences between a belief in ones
        own psychic abilities and whether or not one has personally
        witnessed the UFO phenomenon. Table 4 displays these results for
        both witnesses and non-witnesses. However, there were significant
        differences for the number of UFO encounters for both belief in
        pre-cognition ability and psychokinesis ability. Those who
        responded yes to the pre-cognition question reported an average of
        2.9 UFO sightings compared to an average of one UFO sighting for
        the remainder of the sample. Those who felt they had an ability
        with psychokinesis reportedly had seen UFOs an average of 3.33
        times, compared to 1.1 times for those who said they did not have
        the ability or weren't sure.



        Table 4

        Comparison of the psychic ability beliefs of
        UFO witnesses and non-witnesses

        Witnesses Non-witnesses
        % Yes Ave. % Yes Ave.
        Believe have some ability to gain
        extra-sensory perceptions (ESP) of
        thoughts and feelings of other
        people (telepathy)? 48 2.32 53 2.25

        Believe have some ability to gain
        impressions of events or objects
        which are outside usual environ-
        ment (clairvoyance)? 45 2.10 36 1.92

        Believe have some ability to gain
        impressions of future events
        (pre-cognition)? 42 2.16 33 1.86

        Believe have some ability to
        influence the physical environment
        around you (psychokinesis or "mind
        over matter")? 27 1.76 19 1.64


        This last finding is interesting, but it is certainly
        preliminary and open to a wide variety of interpretations. As I
        mentioned previously, "psychics" may simply be more gullible and
        more apt to misinterpret ambiguous stimuli, or it might be that
        they are actually more perceptive and that this perceptiveness has
        some relation to the UFO phenomenon. Before we lend further
        credence to this latter interpretation it would behoove us to test
        these individuals under controlled, laboratory conditions; to
        determine whether these abilities can indeed be proven to exist.

        References

        (1) Sobal, Jeff and Charles F. Emmons (1982). Patterns of belief
        in religious, psychic and other paranormal phenomena,
        Zetetic Scholar, no. 9 (March 1982), pp. 7-17.

        (2) Jamison, Benton (1976). Some proposals: Modest, immodest,
        and maybe fundable. In Nancy Dourbos (ed.), Proceedings
        of the 1976 CUFOS Conference. Evanston, IL: Center for
        UFO Studies, pp. 119-132.

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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