Most of us still call them UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects. Nasa recently adopted the term “unidentified abnormal phenomena” or UAP. Anyway, every few years popular claims resurface that these things are not of our world, or that the The U.S. government has stockpiled.
I am a sociologist which focuses on the interaction between individuals and groups, particularly regarding shared beliefs and misconceptions. As for why UFOs and their would-be occupants captivate the public, I have found that normal human perceptual and social processes explain the UFO buzz as much as anything in the sky.
Like political scandals and high-waisted jeans, UFOs come and go from the collective consciousness but never completely disappear. Thirty years of voting Found that 25% to 50% of Americans surveyed believe that at least some UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft. Today in the United States, more than 100 million adults think that our galactic neighbors are visiting us.
It has not always been so. Connecting objects in the sky to visiting aliens only gained popularity in 75 years. Part of that is probably market driven. Early UFO Stories Boosted Newspaper and Magazine Sales, and Today They’re Reliable click bait on line.
In 1980, a popular book called “The Roswell Incidentby Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore described an alleged flying saucer crash and government cover-up 33 years prior near Roswell, New Mexico. The only evidence that ever emerged from this story was a small string of downed weather balloons. Nevertheless, the book coincided with a renewed interest in UFOs. From there, a constant stream of UFO-themed TV shows, moviesAnd pseudo-documentaries aroused public interest. Perhaps inevitably, conspiracy theories on government cover-ups increased in parallel.
Some UFO cases inevitably remain unsolved. But despite growing interestseveral surveys to have found no proof that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin – other than the occasional meteor or misidentification of Venus.
But the US Navy 2017 Gimbal video continues to appear in the media. It shows strange objects filmed by fighter planes, often interpreted as evidence of an alien spacecraft. And in June 2023, an otherwise credible Air Force veteran and former intelligence officer made the stunning statement that the US government is stockpiling many downed alien spacecraft and their dead occupants.
Human Factors Contributing to UFO Beliefs
Only a small percentage of UFO believers are eyewitnesses. Others base their opinions on bizarre images and videos scattered across social media and mainstream mass media. There are astronomical and biological reasons for being skeptical UFO claims. But less often discussed are the psychological and social factors that bring them to the popular forefront.
Many people would like to know whether or not we are alone in the universe. But so far, the evidence on the origins of UFOs is ambiguous at best. Be refractory to ambiguity, people want answers. However, being highly motivated to find these answers can biased judgments. People are more likely to accept weak evidence or fall prey to optical illusions if they support pre-existing beliefs.
For example, in the 2017 Navy video, the UFO appears as a cylindrical aircraft moving rapidly above the background, spinning and darting in a way unlike any terrestrial machine. Science writer Mick West’s analysis challenged this interpretation using data displayed on the tracking screen and basic geometry. He explained how the movements attributed to the blurry UFO are an illusion. They come from the path of the aircraft relative to the object, quick adjustments of the belly camera, and misperceptions based on our tendency to assume that cameras and backgrounds are fixed.
West discovered that the flight characteristics of the UFO were more like those of a bird or a weather balloon than an acrobatic interstellar spaceship. But the illusion is compelling, especially with the Navy still considering the unidentified object.
West also addressed the former intelligence agent claim that the US government has crashed UFOs and dead aliens. He urged caution, given that the whistleblower’s only evidence was that people he trusted had told him they had seen the alien artifacts. West noted that we have Heard this sort of thing before, along with promises that the proof will be revealed soon. But it never comes.
Anyone, including pilots and intelligence officers, can be socially influenced to see things that don’t exist. Research shows that hearing other people claim to have seen something amazing is all it takes to induce similar judgments. The effect is accentuated when the influencers are numerous or of higher status. Even recognized experts are not immune to disregard unknown images obtained under unusual conditions.
Group Factors Contributing to UFO Beliefs
“Pictures where it didn’t happen” is a popular phrase on social networks. True to form, users post countless shaky UFO images and videos. Usually these are indescribable lights in the sky captured by cellphone cameras. But they can go viral on social media and reach millions of users. In the absence of a higher authority or organization driving the content, social scientists call it a bottom-up approach. social dissemination process.
In contrast, top-down diffusion occurs when information emanates from centralized agents or organizations. In the case of UFOs, sources have included social institutions like the militaryindividuals with large public platforms like US Senatorsand major media like SCS.
Amateur organizations also promote the active personal involvement of several thousand members, the Mutual UFO Network being among the oldest and largest. But as Sharon A. Hill points out in her book “Scientific Americansthese groups apply questionable standards, spread misinformation and command little respect within mainstream scientific communities.
Descending and ascending dissemination process can combine into self-reinforcing loops. The mass media broadcasts UFO content and piques worldwide interest in UFOs. More people are pointing their cameras skyward, creating more opportunities to capture and share weird content. Poorly documented UFO photos and videos circulated on social media, main media to grab and repost the most intriguing ones. Whistleblowers emerge periodically, fanning the flames with allegations of secret evidence.
Despite the hype, nothing ever comes of it.
For a scientist who knows the problemsthe skepticism that UFOs carry of extraterrestrial beings is totally distinct from the smart life perspective elsewhere in the universe. The scientists involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence have a number of ongoing research projects designed to detect signs of extraterrestrial life. If intelligent life exists, they’ll probably be the first to know.
As an astronomer Carl Sagan wrote“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, it seems like a terrible waste of space.
This article originally appeared at The Conversation.