Space Aliens: The 'Mother' Of All Hallucinations?

People who claim to have been abducted by space aliens seem to invariably describe a very similar picture. Space aliens are described as having large heads, big eyes, gray skin, smooth features and small mouths.


(Mom?)

Psychologist Frederick Malmstrom, currently a visiting scholar at the U.S. Air Force Academy, believes that these 'visions' of space aliens are actually the image of the prototypical female face that is is hardwired into every baby human's brain. When Malmstrom altered a picture of a woman in a manner consistent with the characteristics of a newborn's vision (astigmatism and a shallow focal plane), the result looked very much like a big-eyed alien.


(Mother's face as seen by newborn infant
Squint to enhance effect)

Note that the nostrils appear to be vertical slits, and the mouth is much less distinguishable, as in the alien picture shown at top.

The power of visual imagery is often confused for visual reality. This confusion is understandable, as visual imagery frequently occupies and competes for the same regions of the visual cortex and subcortical regions as visual perception itself. The competition between visual and mental images seems to be at its greatest during hypnagogic and dream states, precisely the awareness regions where these two processes merge.15 Hence, it would be expected that the alien face perceived in hypnagogic dreamlike states is also produced from the same primitive facial recognition template. Further investigation is warranted.
(Dr. Malmstrom)


(Dr. Frederick Malmstrom)

Malmstrom was asked why people see this prototypical mother face, rather than some other important figure. He replied that the answer had to do with the fact that cases of abduction that are considered credible enough to study were those in which abductees reported that they were falling asleep, or were under hypnosis.

For those whose belief systems have been severely shaken by this revelation, consider reading Catholic Belief and Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life; those who would like a bit of distance on this topic might consider reading Find Extraterrestrial Civilizations By Their Works. Reference articles may be found here and here. Thanks also to reader Kentaro Mori for finding the article in Skeptic magazine.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/22/2005)

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