UFO Conjecture(s)

Friday, April 08, 2011

UFO and abduction antecedents: The Betty Hill account

That there are precedents for flying saucers and alien abduction-medical procedures is a given.

Here are three, from just before the 1940s onslaught of UFO events:

From 1908

From 1935

From the 1930s

How memory clasps on to such images is covered in the psychological literature as you know. For instance, items seen or experienced, as those above, reside in memory and are recalled when associative material is suggested. The problem in retrieval is that a confluence of memory alters or distorts the attempted retrieval item, and it is remembered with all the (similar) accoutrements that have surrounded it over the years. [Psychology Today, CRM Books, Del Mar, California, 1970, Page 347 ff.]

...memory seems to evolve over time. Items [are] not lost or recovered at random. Rather, material that was more foreign to the subject, or lacked sequence, or was
stated in unfamiliar terms, [is] more likely to be lost or changed substantially in both syntax and meaning. [The hippocampus and declarative memory: cognitive mechanisms and neural codes by Howard Eichenbaum, 2001]

and is never accurate:

According to much of the recent psychological literature on memory, Bartlett
should be credited with the insight that remembering can never be accurate
but is, instead, more or less of a distortion. [MISREMEMBERING BARTLETT: A STUDY IN SERIAL REPRODUCTION by James Ost and Alan Costall]

For example, here’s how we conjectured, early on at this blog (in the archived postings) Betty Hill’s “star map.”

We suggested that she recalled, under hypnosis, a map that hung in her place of employment. This is that map:


When she was hypnotized, she recalled and drew this now (infamous?) map:


Betty Hill grasped from her Long Term Memory, an image that meshed with the story she was endeavoring to relate.

Why the map at all? We surmise that Betty Hill has an associative attachment to the map, for some emotional reason, and brought it forward to assuage her feelings about what it represented.

Was Barney Hill in the service during WWII, or one of Betty Hill’s relatives? A father, a brother, an uncle, anyone with an emotional connection to Ms. Hill?

(We also suggest that Betty Hill saw the alien medical scenario above, which appeared in materials that she was said to read.)

This is all hypothetical cogitation on our part, but it is the kind of rumination that needs to be applied, more judiciously of course, to all UFO events, Roswell in particular.

This posting is an attempt to push (younger) bona fide researchers into a modus that gets the study of UFOs out of its laughable rut.

We can only hope that some will pursue the topic accordingly….


  • I wonder if you've read the papers linked in the article? Whilst Bartlett contested emphatically that *no* memory is accurate,the conclusions have since been challenged. It's often the case that early pioneers in psychology subsequently prove inaccurate in their hypotheses. A good example of this is people citing Freud and Jung; they are more like footnotes in a modern psychology education.

    The linked paper that refers to Bartlett is a determined critique of his conclusions. It seeks to demonstrate that some memories are highly accurate and provides references to studies that confirm this.

    Bartlett's published research began in the 1930s and ended in the mid-60s. Unsurprisingly, a lot has changed since then. This doesn't mean that we should disregard the old guard of early psychological studies, rather we should be astutely aware of newer research. Some seminal discoveries about memory by Miller et al (1953 iirc) still stand.

    Personally, I find the Hill case intriguing and compelling. This doesn't mean every utterance by Betty or Barney was a verbatim account of what occurred. In my opinion, the arguments put forth that they were 'misremembering' or confabulating memories from TV shows and cultural contamination are speculative and ill-considered. Although they are repeatedly presented as explanations, I think they fall short.

    Where does that leave us? In my opinion, it hardly matters. It was decades ago and remains open to speculation.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    Yes, the paper cited goes on to say that Bartlett contradicted his own view by presenting memory information that was accurate.

    However, in all the current studies, no one -- and I mean no one -- has proven that memory is infallible, even portions of memory.

    On the face of it, the idea that memory is infallible is silly.

    All studies of memory, and I mean all!, tell us that memory is problematic in essence; that is, memory is fraught with more caveats than one can enumerate.

    Researchers, neurologists, et al. keep trying to prove that memory is fixed and true, but like UFOs, memory remains a mystery, one that is fallible at its core.

    As for Freud and Jung, their truths and findings stand out, and no current psychologist has ever come close to their insights, which I hold to be archetypal.

    Just as the Greek philosophers had insights that current physicists still can't match, Freud and Jung, among a few others, had insights that we would be foolish to eschew.

    I'd like to be hip and young and write that what is new is better and truer, but that just isn't so.

    Bartlett was right: memory is never accurate, never.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • Didn't Martin Kottmeyer go into a lot of the ideas that might have inspired Betty Hill? In an article or articles c. 1990, I believe.

    By Blogger cda, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • CDA:

    Dig it up, won't you?

    The Hills had an experience, that seems almost certain, but what exactly was the nature of that experience remains open.

    They saw something, and what happened after that should be the gist for researchers who still want to clarify the account, even though some, like our friend, Kandinsky, think it is a tired, moot point.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • Try MAGONIA, number 35, Jan 1990.
    Article in question is "Entirely Unpredisposed" by Martin Kottmeyer.
    I read it long ago so I don't know how much of it is still valid, i.e. whether it has been refuted by later research.

    By Blogger cda, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • I'm not sure that anyone is claiming, or seeking to prove, memories as infallible. We can look to our own memories and know full well that they are flawed without the help of academic studies.

    A lazy example is recalling what someone was wearing last week. Given the right impetus for remembering their clothes, we can demonstrate accurate recall. Likewise, we also make mistakes.

    Are the mistakes enough to write off all of our recollections? You seem to be suggesting that we should. This seems unreasonable when it can be extrapolated, from our own experiences, that many memories are accurate.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • Thanks, CDA...

    Will check out the Betty Hill refutation.

    But it's not nice to attack little old ladies.

    Betty Hill was a sweetie, and had some kind of experience.

    What that was I have no idea, but she sure had a good run with it.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    You're a brilliant bloke, and thought-provoking.

    However, I'm an Oliver Sack's groupie and really believe that all memory and shards of memory are flaky.

    Even that from a few seconds ago.

    So when someone tells me a story about something that happened years ago, I discount it from the get-go.

    As I've mentioned before, I did a paper on The (coined) Smiley Blanton Syndrome, where one set of memories intertwines with another set of memories, creating a whole new memory, flawed by the juxtaposition of material alongside other material.

    Testing memory has "proven" that no one can recall or retrieve information that conforms to the reality they experienced.

    Betty and Barney Hill may have related what they thought was the reality they experienced but that is so iffy that one has to discount their tale from the outset, even if parts of it are absolutely true, "in extenso."

    But how can we know, for certain?

    Sorry, pal o' mine but memory, for me, is an evanescent thing, and shall remain so until someone proves otherwise.

    I'm not holding my breath.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • While it obviously doesn't prove it, your case for map confusion is intriguing. I also very much agree with Kandinsky here:
    "This doesn't mean every utterance by Betty or Barney was a verbatim account of what occurred."

    Nice article. :)

    By Blogger Bob Koford, at Friday, April 08, 2011  

  • We'll agree to disagree then...agreeably.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Thanks, Bob, and I agree that Betty Hill wasn't providing a totally accurate account, under hypnosis, where all kinds of memory intrusions get mixed up, like a salad.

    But I think she (and Barney) had some kind of strange, propinquitous experience.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Kandinsky...

    I love ya, man, but please don't use that banal, stupid phrase that we'll agree to disagree.

    I hate the damn thing.

    It's putrid and if any of our guys say it here, they're out....out.

    Just disagree and be done with it!

    Current (or recent) memory studies have tried to "prove" that some memory is totally accurate, but no study has done so.

    If you find one, where the experiment or data indicates otherwise, let me/us know.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • I suspect you're being mendacious in your phrasing in this blog. You are too bright a guy/s to be doing it by accident. By asking for studies that offer *proof* of *total accuracy* you're ensuring that your position can't be challenged.

    That could be interpreted as gamesmanship or obtuseness arising from having already drawn your conclusions. Added to the fact that you don't necessarily read the sources you reference, trying to sway you would be a great task.

    Anecdotally, I left work early last Monday for an appointment at 4:30. I was 5 minutes late when I arrived. Leaving an hour later, I played a new album in the car and bought lamb for dinner at the supermarket on the way home.

    For the sake of argument, most of these details can be corroborated by bank card, street cameras,colleagues and my appointment records. They are accurate memories.

    The 'agree to disagree comment' stands. It needn't be wishy-washy, but avoids some of the child-like antics of internet folk. One of the attractions of blogs is the potentially intelligent discussion and less of the bickering endemic in forums. In my opening post, you were disagreed with in an agreeable and accurate way.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • It may be that the impressions of memory versus hard data points provide a superimposing template when a observer-experience attempts to arrange a transcription of associations onto a experience that has no precedent. In other words, memory as a active principle in this unknown dynamic is a substitution, or perhaps best described as a formulating metaphor that places itself on a proverbial and overwhelming ink blot. What is remembered is more akin to a dream that a potentially reliable witness in a court of law. The context may not be comparable or transferable to more prosaic experiences..so perhaps we end up debating the attributes of a sort of set of false arguments or frames of reference in substitution of the commonplace into the exceptions to "rules" This is certainly a complex entanglement of a experiential account.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    Let me assure you that the paper referenced was read, along with about 30 others, and since psychology is our bailiwick I can also assure you that we are rather well read in the literature.

    What you provide as "proof" of memory -- your sojourn to the bank and all -- is recall of verifiable activity.

    The details within that activity are up for grabs, from a memory standpoint.

    Yes, we make provocative statements here (and elsewhere) and are obnoxious sometimes, but we always hope that readers wil chastise us with ample counter arguments and not opinion pieces or anecdotal swill.

    And yes, you are an agreeable chap, but hoping to agree to disagree is a cop out, used by a lot of UFO scalawags who don't have the wherewithal or brains to debate an issue academically.

    You've made some (erroneous) assumptions; one being that we or I don't read the papers we reference.

    We try to include enough of the papers' gist to indicate we do.

    So that assumption on your part is wrong, which makes us wary of your other assumptions.

    You jumped to a conclusion based on nothing but that I still support Bartlett's views, even after reading a paper that seems to counter his memory theses.

    So stick with us, and do your best to rebut views here, in your agreeable way, but try to be a bit more, um, shall we say, intellectual.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Bruce:

    What you write is to the point; the matter is complex and convoluted -- memory being enslaved to lots of intrusive adjuncts.

    As Minksy points out, like you, the dream-like quality of memory makes getting at the truth a daunting task.

    One can never be sure of the truth that one's memory presents, never.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Harry Lorayne would be a very interesting person to talk to regarding these memory issues. He's still out there, alive and kicking and remembering stuff.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Harry Lorayne, the entertainer?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Yeah! Harry is still the man regarding memory training after all these decades. Of course he entertains with it too, but he blows people away with it when he does. He may not be a researcher in the clinical sense, but he knows it and I think he would have some interesting opinions on the matter.


    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Thanks, Frank...

    But I think we'll pass.

    Lorayne is scorched by his night-club antics.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Nice bait and switch. You posted a reference to a paper that you obviously hadn't read. To then suggest my response lacked 'intellectual' content is deflection.

    Your subsequent assertion that the linked paper 'seems to counter his memory theses' suggests that you still haven't read it.

    All this nonsense aside, I admire your determination to be provocative in the face of reason. Deciding to consider all of your memories as fallacious must make for an interesting take on subjective reality. Taken to its extreme, the evidence of your posts in this blog must be a problem?

    You remember posting them, the evidence is right before you and yet they must be at odds with your notion that memory is totally inaccurate?

    C'mon? Be brave and admit that *some* memories are accurate!

    If you won't, I promise to be agreeable about it.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    Tell me what you find in your copy of the Bartlett paper cited.

    No memory is accurate. The gist may be there, but the nuanced elements are corrupted by lots of other things, as Sacks tells us and you'll find in Minsky's book, referenced here.

    If you want to believe that memory is intact and whole, at any point in time, that's fine with me.

    But that view isn't intellectual.

    It's silly, if one is truly aware of the literature, then and now.

    I don't want to get into a brouhaha with you, as I like your visits here. They are thought provoking and intelligent -- not intellectual but intelligent.

    And I'll make sure to(re)read the paper cited just to accomodate your erroneous assumption that the thing wasn't read (or understood).


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

  • And Kandinsky...

    The paper you are so exercised about was only cited as I used a quote from it.

    We never appropriate material without attribution.

    So your pique at my not reading the paper is your own form of "deflection."

    I just reread the paper, and find that Bartlett survives and is enhanced by the authors' attempts to show that Bartlett himself was guilty of having accurate memories.

    I hope you take up my challenge to tell me what you find in the paper that convinces you Bartlett is wrong.

    And try to keep your comments geared to the matter that this posting is addressing, not the accusation that papers referenced here are unread -- a stupid allegation on the face of it, for those who read and understand exactly what we and I have inserted here over the years.

    Don't be angry or defensive.

    Just back up your view, as I surmise it, that you think Bartlett and those who find memory to be intrinsically flawed are wrong.

    Tell us how you come to such errant thinking.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 09, 2011  

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