UFO Conjectures

Monday, November 09, 2020

A minor event, even a lie, turns into a fictional “truth”

Copyright 2020, InterAmerica, Inc.

The 1980 Rendlesham incident(s) continue to bother me. Something odd happened nearby the English military establishments, that seems certain. But what exactly?

Like Roswell and other select UFO, flying saucer-related, events or accounts, the initial stories begin with an assortment of details and then, over time, escalate to full-blown, fantastic tales. How and why does this happen?

(I’ve outlined, many times, the Smiley-Blanton Syndrome whereby a person intermingles two or more matters, often only slightly related or not related at all, creating a new scenario or creation. But I’m not writing about that here.)

I’m probing the idea that persons experience something odd or create a fiction (lie) that eventually evolves (or grows) into an event of a totally different kind: a new, bastardization of the initial, reported episode, whether real or contrived.

For example, the Rendlesham military men who, on patrol to determine the reality of weird lights in Rendlesham Woods, ended up seeing those strange lights and eventually, years later, claiming a craft with strange [hieroglyphic-like lettering] inscription on it and one member of the reconnaissance crew being presented mentally [telepathically?] with a series of binary code.

Did the current (and subsequent) information making up the context of the Rendlesham event(s)  today come about from updated memory (always questionable) or by way of ‘The Illusory Truth Effect”?

“fMRI Evidence for the Role of Recollection in Suppressing Misattribution Errors: The Illusory Truth Effect

Jason P. Mitchell1,2, Chad S. Dodson3, and Daniel L. Schacter1

Abstract & Misattribution refers to the act of attributing a memory or idea to an incorrect source, such as successfully remembering a bit of information but linking it to an inappropriate person or time [Jacoby, L. L., Kelley, C., Brown, J., & Jasechko, J. (1989).

Becoming famous overnight: Limits on the ability to avoid unconscious influences of the past. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 326–338; Schacter, D. L. (1999). The seven sins of memory: Insights from psychology and cognitive neuroscience. American Psychologist, 54, 182–203; Schacter, D. L. (2001). The seven sins of memory: How the mind forgets and remembers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin]. Cognitive studies have suggested that misattribution errors may occur in the absence of recollection for the details of an initial encounter with a stimulus, but little is known about the neural basis of this memory phenomenon. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the hypothesized role of recollection in counteracting the illusory truth effect, a misattribution error whereby perceivers systematically overrate the truth of previously presented information. Imaging was conducted during the encoding and subsequent judgment of unfamiliar statements that were presented as true or false.

Event-related fMRI analyses were conditionalized as a function of subsequent performance. Results demonstrated that encoding activation in regions previously associated with successful recollection—including the hippocampus and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC)—correlated with the successful avoidance f misattribution errors, providing initial neuroimaging support for earlier cognitive accounts of misattribution.

In the current research, we extend the scope of these earlier investigations to another form of memory failure, that of misattribution. Misattribution refers to situations in which one erroneously attributes a memory or idea to an incorrect source, such as successfully remembering a bit of information but linking it to an inappropriate person, time, or place (Schacter, 1999, 2001; Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993; Jacoby et al., 1989).” [From a Google search]

The above excerpt from the larger monograph may explain the psychological mechanism by which Rendlesham ended up more complex and sci-fi like than it started out in 1980.

Then there is this that may apply to Rendlesham and very likely applies to Roswell and also the George Adamski (and other contactee) tales and some (many) early UFO encounters:

“What does it mean if you believe your own lies?

Pathological lying is broadly defined as telling compulsive, elaborate lies. ... Believing (or seeming to believe) their own lies – some experts believe that because people who pathologically lie do so with great ease and frequency, they may not always remember what is real, and what they've made up.

What is it called when you convince yourself something is true?

Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.”  [Ibid]

What I’m suggesting is that there are psychological or sociological behaviors that can explain the creation or development of UFO accounts that stem from a queer occurrence and evolve (develop) into the stories that have become the UFO lore we have today.

Preston Dennett, a popular ufologist, subscribes to UFO abduction stories as if they’re true in toto. (He has a book about such alleged happenings.)

Many UFO enthusiasts succumb to tales that are fictive in almost every way imaginable, not knowing or ignoring how the mind works causing UFO reportage that is fallacious or noteworthy for their imaginative flavor.

Niek Redfern recently posted (on Facebook) a few book covers of early UFO sightings, particularly amenable to the Illusory Truth Effect or, sadly, something more devious (sociopathic).

Many UFOers don’t care about truth or facts. They are consumed by their belief systems, as the Illusory Truth Effect explains.



  • Rich, I can't speak to the psychological factors involved since I'm not an expert like you, but a belief system based on witness testimony rather than hard fact is a shaky foundation at best. Despite the evidence presented on some of the best cases (those with physical evidence or multiple witnesses, i.e.,Socorro, Pascagoula), the fallibility of human perception (and the sometimes outright dishonesty that pervades the field) should always be a caution. I question my own experiences after many years have passed and am not so confident anymore as to what I saw. Hence my skepticism, which is only shaken by those few reports that fall south of weird but leave no other explanation. A fascinating study you've undertaken. I'm following along.

    By Blogger Ron, at Monday, November 09, 2020  

  • Ron, every UFO sighting is fallible, responsible to memory flaws, inadvertent observational issues, the Illusory syndrome noted above, etc.

    But I do concede that Pascagoula, Socorro, the Ann Arbor/Dexter "swamp gas" account and a few others, offer validity, because the witnesses were exceptional, free of blatant shortcomings.

    So, I am without despair when it comes to the possibility of some clarity about the phenomenon, even an explanation.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, November 09, 2020  

  • The Rendlesham Forest case is an especially interesting one. In agreement with your suggestion of "psychological or sociological behaviors" problems it sent me off to review Ian Ridpath's very interesting site -ianridpath.com/ufo/rendlesham.htm- where he claims to be the first to journalist investigate case -a year later.

    There are lots of links damning reports by the USAF deputy base commander and others that seem to have grown in retrospect many years later.

    My inclination was to support USAF professionalism on an important airbase but a nighttime chasing of lights in an unfamiliar forest could fool anyone.


    By Blogger Bryan Daum, at Monday, November 09, 2020  

  • Bryan, I am almost convinced that Penniston and Burroughs, even Halt, have come to excrete material and details that didn't actually occur initially.

    The scholarly paper noted above makes my case.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, November 09, 2020  

  • I've never quite known what to make of Rendlesham. What a mess. On the other hand a number of Ridpath's explanations are strained and silly.

    As I recall the initial Halt memo notes a craft was seen close to the ground by (I think) Penniston and Burroughs that then moved off while levitating above the ground. The stuff that came up later about touching the craft and "downloading" coded information sounds like attention-seeking embellishment perhaps symptomatic of a mental illness.

    Anyone seen this disaster? https://www.amazon.com/Rendlesham-Enigma-Book-Timeline/dp/1081237708/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=rendlesham+enigma&qid=1604992320&sprefix=rendles&sr=8-1


    By Blogger Martin Black, at Tuesday, November 10, 2020  

  • Apropos of absolutely nothing, I used to edit Peter Robbins' articles, and to break some deadline pressure with a touch of levity, once asked him, "Is it 'Left At East Gate' or 'East At Left Gate'?" Ouch. These guys have no sense of humor, but the claim to being first out of the gate with a book is a huge deal. I ignore further books on the subject, first, because now I can, and second, because they're all hooey. It pains me to say it since I think Halt was a stand-up guy, at least originally, and had some story to tell.

    By Blogger Ron, at Tuesday, November 10, 2020  

  • I feel as you, Ron....

    Halt struck me as a stand-up guy but a recent interview with him, that I've noted here and at Facebook, was oddly flush with new "insights" by him I thought.

    The guys all seem to have added material to their original tales.

    Burrough's medical problems, I thought, were related to his experience, and they may be, but psychiatrically, not the event itself....he may have developed a mental problem by elaborating and coming to believe his developing fantasy rather than suffering from the experience or aftermath questioning by the inquiry people.

    The "event" has become a quagmire, and the idea that it was all a prank by the RAF or some other Brit unit is not lost on me.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, November 10, 2020  

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