UFO Conjectures

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In defense of the 1994 Ariel School (Ruwa, Zimbabwe) UFO event and the children who allegedly witnessed it

Robert Sheaffer provided a posting about Gilles Fernandez’ report on the 1994 Ruwa, Zimbabwe alleged UFO encounter by students at the Ariel school there:

I’ve covered this account several times, myself, and recently linked Gilles’ exemplary evaluation of the way Cynthia Hind, a UFO “researcher” and noted psychiatrist John Mack interviewed the children involved.

Here is an internet link to an article about how clumsy or errant interviewing goes astray. (The piece is about sexual abuse but the same exigencies apply to any kind of interview to get at the truth of a matter):

Interviewing sexually abused children

However, there are caveats with the contamination explanation offered, brilliantly, by Gilles.

A purview of the Two Volume Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology, 3rd Edition [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 1946, 1954, 1970, Paul H. Mussen, Editor] allows for acceptance of child accounts as linguistically and mentally accurate; that is, free of fabrication or deviousness, unless one is dealing with a child who is predisposed to schizophrenia or other serious behavioral disorder.

An elaborate exegesis of how children see, remember, and recall moments is covered in Volume One, Page 944 ff…

“According to Bruner (1964, 1966a), the child [ages 7 to 11] first masters “enactive” representation … he then becomes capable of “ikonic” representation which summarizes events by selective organization of percepts and of images, by the spatial, temporal and qualitative structures of the perceptual field and their transformed images.” [ibid. Page 948]

However, “A human being can witness a [event] without at the time perceiving it himself…When this deferred imitation (Piaget, 1945) leads to a learned strengthening of the response, observational learning is said to occur.” [ibid. Page 956]

In a portion devoted to creative problem solving, there is this:

“Some of the ‘discovery’ methods confront children with questions and require[s] them to find the answers to them through their own efforts.” [Mackworth (1965) and Guilford (1956, 1967), ibid. Page 972].

One can assume that John Mack is familiar with the studies and literature, and while I watched Dr. Mack in the proffered interview segments, it was obvious to me, from my observations at Eloise Hospital (Wayne County, Michigan) between psychiatrists and patients during my psychological training (Wayne State University) that Dr, Mack was aware of the proper procedures for acquiring accurate information from those children he interviewed.

Yet, Gilles’ – a cognitive psychologist – contamination scenario strikes me as valid to a large extent.

The children weren’t confabulating but surely could have been influenced by their peers’ responses and Ms. Hind’s UFO predilections.

But to continue to present their “stories” – two months after the alleged event when Dr, Mack interviewed them and later in life, when grown up – would vitiate the idea that actual contamination took place, despite the onerous hypothesis Gilles so astutely presents.

That is, the children saw something odd, and did their best to portray that observation as best as they could, under the bizarre circumstances.

Mr. Sheaffer provides, surprisingly, a glib, facile observation in his posting.

Gilles, at least, offers substantive material to augment his skeptical view.

Zoam Chomsky merely excoriates the tale (or actual event) in his usual dynamic but breezy way.

This is a “UFO event” that needs more study, and follow-up, since the witnesses are still with us and at an age and in a mental condition to provide better and/or more information.

Let’s not be so hasty to write the account off because skeptics hate the idea that people see strange things and report them.

In this instance, challenging the view of children is particularly abominable, unless one has distinct evidence that such children are sociopaths or even psychopaths, both rare in children at the ages of those who saw the odd craft and odd being supposedly from it.



  • 1. Mr. Sheaffer's hardly glib or facile: he fully offers up Gille's analysis, whilst highlighting some very valid concerns about Mack's methods.

    2. The books you cite are very old. I've no background in psychology, but I'm aware that in any discipline, research moves on, and paradigms change. Were all the children in the day care rape and satanic abuse scandals psychopaths? Undoubtedly, no. Yet there were very real world consequences of the nonsense they were party to.

    3. I hope the stories (a genuine request for a link to these adult testimonies) that are being told as adults are less fanciful than Emily Trim's (how about that for selection bias?)

    4. In the absence of any hard evidence, this is yet another UFO story (an apposite phrase) that would be laughed out of any court you care to name.

    5. Zoam will be much more coherent and sophisticated [than I] if he comments on this post.

    By Blogger scherben, at Thursday, July 21, 2016  

  • Ah, Scherben....

    Sometimes you're such a neophyte.

    The principles presented in the volumes cited remain intact in Child Psychology and if you were familiar with current psychology, you'd know that.

    The books highlight Piaget's techniques, which are considered germane still.

    John Mack was no tyro. If you watched and paid attention to his interviewing of the children, you'd see his expertise when it comes to psychological principles.

    Sheaffer was glib.....and Zoam, whom I love, is just silly sometimes. And with this case, this is so,

    The "event" needs more study and less superficial commentary.

    Only Gilles' analysis deserves credit for erudition, but even then it needs to be examined more thoroughly, as it has the bias of deep skepticism about such UFO events.

    Hard evidence is never available for most, if not all, UFO reports.

    That's a problem surely, but that shouldn't remove this particular case from serious scrutiny and intellectual debate.

    I expect more from you. Your comment was superficial and sycophantic as hell.

    Shame on you, this time.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, July 21, 2016  

  • Rich & All.

    There are many new experimental researches in the field how children may generate false-memories or will incorporate/implant in their narratives what have been in reality colported/spreaded by rumor, classmates or adults, by hearsay, etc. and this, in a very short delay/period. Of course the age of the children is important, but it appears from very young to pre-teenagers, the first more exposed, and the effect is important (remember we have not the 62 testimonies or drawings here...).

    For examples Principe, G.F., Guiliano, S., & Root, C. (2008). Rumor mongering and remembering : How rumors originating in children’s inferences can affect memory.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 99, 135-155.
    Principe, G.F., Kanaya, Ceci, S.J., & Singh, M. (2006). Believing is seeing : How rumors can enger false memories in preschoolers. Psychological Science, 17, 243-248.
    Principe, G.F., Tinguely, A., & Dobkowski, N. (2007). Mixing memories : The effects of rumors that conflict with children’s experiences. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 98, 1-19.

    Here is a summary (I translate fastly french to english cause received the abstract in French, sorry for typos) of Principe, Guiliano, & Root, 2008 ; Principe, Kanaya, Ceci, & Singh, 2006 ; Principe, Tinguely, & Dobkowski, 2007. my friend sent me yesterday (as I received a big bibliography from two professors, and among such 2 a very famous in your country who read my article, you know "Madame false-memories"^^).

    "In the psychology department of Ursinus College in Collegeville United States, Gabrielle Principe studying for several years the effect of a rumor on the testimony of young children.
    The results it has published so far, with different collaborators, indicate that this population incorporates easily in his statements a false rumor spread by adults or classmates who overheard a conversation between adults.
    These stories are embellished on rumors of new details and generally involve the feeling of having actually witnessed the event heard despite it was hearsay! Rumors conflict with the past and those inferred by comrades can also influence about young participants who were subjected to it."

    I'm step by step adding a bibliography at the end of "my" article, and will probably summarize all such recent articles, step by step too. (It costs time and you well know I do it on my free time, so be patient if interested).



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • Thank you Gilles...

    This episode is a bit more than just a rumor, but I'd like to see the bibliography, of course.

    In college, I eschewed psychological classes about children, although I had a few at the time.

    However, I find the innocence of children fascinating, even when they are provocative with their imaginative ramblings. They open inquiry to what goes on neurologically inside our human brains, even at an early age.

    You know I see the distinct possibility that the Ariel "event" may be a matter of induced hallucination or, as you show, an example of "contamination."

    But I'm livid when I get here, commentary (such as that from my friend Scherben) as cheap, opinionated "rebuffs" like those that fill up Kevin Randle's blog's comment sections.

    If someone wants to challenge my speculations, that's more than fine with me. I look forward to being corrected, by astute, substantive, rebuttals, such as you provide.

    It helps clarify a topic, which is what we're doing with the 1994 account I hope.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • That's fine. I accept your rebuke both as valid, and with good grace. We all have our limitations, and I've exposed mine publicly. :) So I humbly apologise.

    By Blogger scherben, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • Scherben..

    You know you are one of my favorite UFO people.

    But I was surprised that your comment was so like those posted at Kevin Randle's blog: full of froth and folly.

    You are an intelligent person, and your reservation about my view(s) and the Ariel episode are well taken, even as flip as they seem to be.

    You saw how Gilles countered with his list of current psychological thinking on children (and rumors).

    That's what I expect from readers here and you usually comply.

    So take my seemingly irate response with a grain of salt and keep me on my toes, intellectually however.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • My reply was terrible in so many ways; and I certainly didn't intend to annoy or irritate you in any way. I think it was recklessness on my part; and nemesis duly followed, as is its wont.

    Believe me, I'm grateful for your response. It'll keep me on my toes. :)

    By Blogger scherben, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • You're a good, thoughtful person, Scherben.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

  • You're a good, thoughtful person, Scherben.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 22, 2016  

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