Psychological Studies on ET Contact Experiencers

Social Science Theories, Hypotheses and
Research Findings

Part III

By Kathleen Marden, BA, MA Edu.


“They found that suspected experiencers were no more fantasy prone than the control groups. However, the experiencer group reported childhood experiences with psychic phenomena, non-physical beings and alternate realities (the ability to see into other realities or to see beings that others are not aware of)…This is a frequently reported trait among experiencers who report they’ve been taken since childhood, including those categorized as best evidence cases.”


Fantasy Prone Personality and Dissociative States

In 1981, Theodore .X. Barber and Sheryl. C. Wilson (Massachusetts), in a study designed to better understand hypnotic suggestibility, coined the term “fantasy prone personality” to describe a segment of the adult population (approximately 4%) that spends most of its time engaged in magical thinking and has the tendency to mix and confuse fantasies with real experiences. Their conclusions were based upon interviews and a screening measure for hypnotic suggestibility with 27 female daydreamers, who were excellent hypnotic subjects, and 25 who were not. They wrote that 65% of fantasy-prone individuals sometimes confuse fantasies they have daydreamed with reality, particularly when they pertain to conversations with loved ones.

Fantasy prone subjects reported childhood experiences in which they fantasized their dolls and stuffed animals were real or where they pretended they were someone else. Most vivid daydreamers reported that their ability to focus intensely upon their imaginings grew out of loneliness or boredom during childhood. Many reported having imaginary playmates or believing in fairies or guardian angels. Although fantasy play is common in early childhood, according to Wilson and Barber, fantasy prone individuals carry this intense daydreaming pattern into adulthood. Additionally, fantasy prone individuals often reported the belief that they have psychic abilities, the ability to heal others, and out of body experiences. Studies have indicated that some fantasy prone individuals were encouraged to develop childhood fantasies by a significant adult, or did so as a way to escape from unpleasant childhood experiences.

Wilson and Barber developed the Inventory of Childhood Memories and Imaginings, a 52 item questionnaire, as a method of screening for hypnotic suggestibility. (It might be more an indication of one’s ability to focus and concentrate). But somewhere along the line, psychologists adopted it as a measure of fantasy proneness among experiencers. As a result, the paranormal experiences reported by experiencers have been interpreted as symptoms of fantasy proneness. If we are to accept the Wilson/Barber scale as a measure of fantasy proneness among experiencers, we must first adopt the a priori belief that UFO ET Contact and psi phenomena are impossible despite the evidence to the contrary. (See Chapter 12 in Science Was Wrong by Friedman & Marden for psi meta-analyses findings).

Subsequently, George Ganaway, (Emory U. psychiatrist dissociative disorders specialist),  in a 1989 article on multiple personality disorder and its variants, argued that television, movies and books in combination with the influence of a hypnotist might lead certain vulnerable individuals to believe they have been abducted by aliens when they have not. Thus, MPD sufferers might fill in their lifelong periods of amnesia with fantasy generated memories of ET Contact as a means of shielding themselves from memories of extreme childhood physical or sexual abuse. (9)

An ambitious 1990 study by Kenneth Ring and Christopher J. Rosing (U. of Connecticut), 264 participants completed a battery of personality screenings in an attempt to assess the psychological factors that give some individuals the propensity to experience ET Contact.  R & R tested experiencers, near death experiencers, a control group of individuals who only expressed an interest in UFOs, and a control group with an interest in NDEs. They found that suspected experiencers were no more fantasy prone than the control groups. However, the  experiencer group reported childhood experiences with psychic phenomena, non-physical beings and alternate realities (the ability to see into other realities or to see beings that others are not aware of). (10) This is a frequently reported trait among experiencers who report they’ve been taken since childhood, including those categorized as best evidence cases.

The Home Environment Inventory, an assessment designed to measure childhood abuse, neglect and trauma, returned statistically significant results in experiencer and NDE groups. We know that severe physical or sexual abuse leads to trauma. In order to construct a psychological defense to shield themselves from the horrible reality of their circumstances, victims often use dissociation as a coping mechanism. Dissociative states fall along a continuum ranging from mild spacing out or losing time that they can’t account for, to multiple personality disorder. Both groups scored significantly higher on psychological inventories designed to test elevated levels of dissociation. Given the elevated rate of self reported childhood abuse, it is reasonable to suspect that some self reported ET Contact cases without evidence, have roots within the human psyche. One must also consider the possibility that experiencers who have endured numerous terrifying ET Contact experiences might internally generate dissociation as a coping mechanism.

Dr. Robert LeLieuvre (Lester Valez and Michael Freeman), spearheaded the Omega 3 project in 2010, to test Ring/Rosen’s findings. Seventy-one experiencers and fifty-one people with an interest in ET Contact phenomena, but not direct contact comprised the experiential and control groups. Eight instruments from the Kenneth Ring Omega Project study and two from Persinger’s study made up the questionnaire that covered physiological, psychological and philosophical areas. The study found that the participants in both groups were no more fantasy prone than the general population. However, the experiential group demonstrated a greater interest in alien contact and this changed the participants’ worldviews. They became more sensitive to altered states of consciousness; reported early psi experiences; higher rates of stress; conflict and tension as adults and psychosocial tension as children; greater tendencies toward dissociation as a coping style; a shift toward spiritual beliefs; and concerns for our planet’s ecology. These finding do not suggest that ET contact is imaginary. (11) (This was borne out by the Marden-Stoner Commonalities Study, 2012)

Additional research designed to test the hypothesis that UFO experiencers are fantasy prone has produced largely negative results with one exception. In a 1991 study, Robert E. Bartholomew (James Cook University), Keith Basterfield (UFO Research Australia) and George Howard (University of Notre Dame) discovered that 87% (N=132) of the self reported contactees / experiencers they interviewed had one or more of the major symptoms of fantasy-prone personality listed on the Wilson/Barber scale. Their findings were based upon the biographical reports of 152 self identified contactees / experiencers, and no psychometric measures were employed to assess personality traits. The trait that most experiencers had in common was the reporting of psychic phenomena. (12) This is a contentious finding due to its subjective nature. It appears that reports of psychic phenomena and alternate realities have been misinterpreted as fantasy proneness by some academic psychologists.

Additionally, a 1991 study by Mark Rodeghier (U. of Illinois), Jeff Goodpastor (Gateway Technical College) and Sandra Blatterbauer (CUFOS) on subjects who met clearly defined criteria for an ET Contact experience, found no difference in the Inventory of Childhood Memories and Imaginings score for alleged experiencers and the general populace.

Nicholas Spanos, PA Cross, K. Dickson and SC DuBreuil (Carleton University) administered an extensive battery of scales to a 19 individuals who reported observing erratically moving lights in the sky that they interpreted as UFOs and 20 individuals who reported experiencing a close encounter with or ET Contact with non-human entities. Their finding indicates that those who report UFO experiences, even missing time and telepathic communication with aliens, are no more fantasy prone than the general population. However, those with higher scores on the fantasy proneness scale reported more elaborate ET Contact experiences.

In 2005, arch skeptic Christopher French (England) administered the Wilson/Barber scale, without additional personality screenings to 19 self reported experiencers and 19 controls. He found a significantly higher rate of “fantasy proneness” among the self identified experiencers. As discussed above, it is my opinion that we cannot accept the Wilson/Barber scale as an accurate measure of fantasy proneness among experiencers. (I have noted what appears to be systematic bias in the research findings of members of skeptical societies. When research findings are inconsistent with general trends among researchers, one is advised to examine the individual’s agenda and personal beliefs.)

Boundary Deficit Disorder

In a 1988 scholarly paper, Martin Kottmeyer, a Midwestern farmer and vocal skeptic, who according to an online biographical profile “defies the idea that anyone should hold academic credentials in order to rationally tackle cultural mysteries”, proposed boundary deficit disorder as a possible explanation for ET Contact. Although he is not a behavioral scientist, his article gained widespread acceptance within debunking groups and came to the attention of experimental psychologist Nicholas Spanos, PhD.

Kottmeyer hypothesizes, based upon Hartmann’s (1984) study of college students who experience frequent nightmares, that ET experiencers in all probability, exhibit boundary deficit symptoms, such as difficulty in differentiating between fantasy and reality, poor sense of self, poor social adaptation with frequent feelings of rejection, suicidal tendencies, feelings of powerlessness, and unusual alertness to sights, sounds and sensations. In 1993, Spanos et al administered five psychometric scales to a control group and to close encounter subjects. Test results revealed that the experimental subjects exhibited lower schizophrenia, higher self-esteem, higher well-being, lower perceptual aberration, lower perception of an unfriendly world, lower aggression and no difference from the control group in social potency. These findings are diametrically opposed to Kottmeyer’s theory. He was wrong on every hypothesis. Additional testing revealed no difference between the control and experimental groups in absorption, fantasy proneness and the tendency to engage in imaginings.

Continue Reading Part IV: Sleep Paralysis & Hypnagogic / Hypnopompic Hallucinations and the people who promote these theories.

This article is published with the expressed written permission of Kathleen Marden for publication on

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Kathleen Marden

Kathleen Marden is known around the world for her work as a UFO ET contact researcher, experiencer rights advocate, author and lecturer. She has 24 years experience in the field. For the past 3 years, she has served as MUFON’s Director of ET Contact Research. In 2012, The Mutual UFO Network named her “Ufologist of the Year.” She is also a member of the Foundation for Research of Extraterrestrial Encounter’s Advisory Board and a consultant to FREE’s Research Subcommittee. Kathleen-Marden-alien-abduction.jpg

She earned a B.A. degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire in 1971, and participated in graduate studies in education while working as a teacher and education services coordinator. She also has extensive training in hypnosis.

Her interest in UFOs dates back to September 20, 1961, when her aunt, Betty Hill phoned her nearby home to report that she and Barney had encountered a flying saucer in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. A primary witness to the evidence of the UFO encounter and the aftermath, Kathleen has intimate knowledge of the Hill’s biographical histories, personalities, and the previously unpublished historical files pertaining to their sensational story.


She is the author of three books, Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, and Science was Wrong, with nuclear physicist/scientific ufologist Stanton T. Friedman, and The Alien Files, with Denise Stoner. Additionally, her essays appear in several books. Her articles have been published in the MUFON UFO Journal, Open Minds, and FATE magazines and on several websites. Kathy has appeared in television and radio programs in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, and has lectured throughout the United States. She is recognized as the world’s leading expert on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. Global-ET-Research: Alien-Abduction-Files.jpg



























“In a 1988 scholarly paper, Martin Kottmeyer, a Midwestern farmer and vocal skeptic, who according to an online biographical profile ‘defies the idea that anyone should hold academic credentials in order to rationally tackle cultural mysteries...’ was wrong on every hypothesis...”

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