Behaving Oddly

Richard F. Haines. (Editor) UFO Phenomena and the Behavioural Scientist. Scarecrow Press, 1979.
Scarecrow Press are well known as the publishers of anthologies, symposia, and bibliographies, and have published several symposia on parapsychology. This book marks their first entry into the field of UFO research. Dr Haines has assembled twelve papers which deal with various social science aspects of ufology. The result is a collection which is rather varied in depth and approach. I will review the separate papers in the rough order of their value and interest to me.

Berthold Schwarz's ‘Psychiatric and para-psychiatric dimensions of UFOs’ examines the history of psychiatrists' involvement with the UFO subject, and the role they can play in UFO research. He delivers a most cogent warning on the dangers of amateur psychiatry by untrained UFO buffs, which includes the strongly emphasised statement: "It is advisable ... that reputed contactees should not by hypnotised unless the investigator is aware of the detailed psychopathology and potential risks, has suitable malpractice insurance, and is prepared to administer necessary first and follow up treatment or hospitalisation". Dr Schwarz has several other very pertinent comments on the ethics of UFO research.

Leo Sprinkle's report on the investigation of the alleged UFO experience of Carl Higdon is an in-depth transcript of a hypnotic regression. One value of the paper, an unintentional one, is its demonstration of the way the beliefs of the local investigators (who brought the case to Sprinkle's attention) had a continuing influence on Higdon's belief system. The investigators seemed quite unable to keep their mouths shut while investigating Higdon's story.

Michael A Persinger contributes two articles. In Limitations of Human Verbal Behaviour in the Context of UFO Related Stimuli', he suggests that UFO percipients are unusually suggestible, and may develop fantasy material when exposed to anomalous events. He also warns against looking for radical, omnibus, explanations of the UFO phenomena, and the loose thinking this can engender.

In his second paper Persinger suggests a possible stimulus for some UFO experiences a piezo-electrical phenomena similar to earthquake lights. Whilst I have doubts about how far this particular model can be stretched, the general idea of UFO experiences being psychological artefacts catalysed by poorly understood physical stimuli is an attractive one.

Ron Westrum's two articles 'Witnesses of UFOs and other Anomalies', and 'UFO Reporting Dynamics', are basically the two parts of his article 'Knowing About UFOs' which appeared in MUFOB New Series, numbers 5 and 6.

Armando Simon's 'The Zeitgeist of the UFO Phenomenon' is a brief but provocative look at the influence of science fiction on the zeitgeist of the UFO age a look seriously marred, however, by deficiencies in Simon's knowledge of the history of ufology (he only knows of the 1954 wave by hearsay).

Haines' own contribution is basically a test to see how well UFO buffs can translate verbal experiences into drawings. The experiment is claimed to show that almost very body has some mental picture of a 'flying saucer'. This is probably true, but Haines' samples comprise audiences of UFO buffs, which may not be representative., The study does indeed suggest that some sort of tacit assumption as to what a UFO should look like may be used in building up pictures.

Phyllis Fox's study of social and cultural factors influencing UFO beliefs may be of great value, but to those with a greater understanding of the statistical basis involved, than your reviewer.

Roger Shepard's paper is basically still trying to plug the idea of an identikit of UFO shapes that he presented to the Congressional Sub-Committee Symposium in 1968. I feel it is an invalid procedure which is likely to 'force' stereotypes.

Harold Cahn's 'Speculations of the UFO Experience' is very weak. Cahn claims that paranormal phenomena can be produced at will (which will be news to the SPR!), that the universe is created by mind, and that the UFO phenomenon is produced by interaction between our minds and those of the ufonauts.

Malmstrom and Coftman present a paper on the heights of ufological, folkloric and religious entities which is reminiscent of the pieces which appear in New Scientist around April Fools Day, and which surely must be intended as a joke.

The collection is introduced by Richard Haines, who argues that .the UFO experience contains 'spiritual' and 'extra-dimensional' aspects, and notes how UFO experients can have personality changes. I cannot help feeling that his choice of terms is unfortunate.

As readers will perhaps by now have gathered, I was somewhat disappointed by this book; it is a brave try that has somehow not made it. To be frank, much of what those contributors with a long background in ufology have to say is what we have all heard before, whilst some of the newcomers give the impression that they have not done their homework properly. I would like to think that this volume will be the first in a series, later volumes of which will contain a wider range of more provocative material.  -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 3, Spring 1980

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