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90 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Science of Alien Abductions
In the past few decades (and significantly, not before that time) there have been stories from people who have been abducted by aliens, probed, sampled, and disgorged back to try to figure out what happened. There have been those who have taken these stories at face value, most famously the late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack, who said that there was no evidence that...
Published on October 2, 2005 by R. Hardy

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28 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Insufficient research, poorly written (refering to both style and the blatant grammatical and spelling errors...)
Susan Clancy's Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens explores exactly what the title states; however, not in any depth required of a serious scientific study. Clancy does an insufficient amount of research, writes six chapters stating what she could have easily stated in one, and proceeds to insult her readers in assuming they are unable to...
Published on February 23, 2007 by C. Guthrie


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90 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Science of Alien Abductions, October 2, 2005
In the past few decades (and significantly, not before that time) there have been stories from people who have been abducted by aliens, probed, sampled, and disgorged back to try to figure out what happened. There have been those who have taken these stories at face value, most famously the late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack, who said that there was no evidence that such abductees were telling anything but the truth. Skeptics and most of his fellow academics scoffed. Now Susan Clancy, a Harvard psychologist, has written about her own researches into participants in the phenomenon. _Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens_ (Harvard University Press) explains such abductions in a way that skeptics will appreciate. However, Clancy also shows respect for the abductees she investigated, appreciating their viewpoints and explaining without condescension how such ideas came to be. The book will convert few abductees from their belief system (and Clancy shows why such a belief system is so satisfying and firmly held), but it goes far to show that they are not stupid or psychotic and they are not just seeking publicity.

As far as the physical reality of such abductions, Clancy (unlike Mack) is firmly in the skeptics' corner, and gives reasons to be sure that no such events are happening, and if they are happening, extraordinary evidence is needed make the events credible; no one has come close to producing such evidence. But she points out, the proper scientific response is not, "Why investigate abduction since it is not really happening?" but rather "What sort of people are reporting being abducted, and why?" And it was this she set out to do; after she got approved by Harvard's Institutional Review Board to do the research, she started running newspaper ads: "Have you been abducted by aliens?", and giving a number which abductees could call. She describes the fifty subjects as "generally warm, open, trusting, and friendly"; they liked fantasy, tarot, and astrology. But there are plenty of people who have such characteristics. Why do some become convinced they have actually been abducted? The startling answer is that they have first hand experiences of abduction that registered in their minds as surely as last night's dinner registered in yours. In the abductees' cases, the memories seem to come from sleep paralysis, a limbo state between sleeping and waking that is not at all uncommon. Before flying saucer films, there was sleep paralysis, and those suffering from it reported interacting with Satan, witches, or dragons; nowadays, it's extraterrestrials.

But why would someone want to foster memories that are so obviously painful? "The contact these people have had with aliens doesn't just feel real - it feels transformative." The abductees reported that their abductions were the most traumatic experiences in their lives, but also the most positive. They felt changed, improved, more at peace, more at one with the universe as they experienced it. All of them denied they would choose not to be abducted, if they could go back again. In a provocative final section, Clancy demonstrates that Saint Teresa's account of her encounter with an angel is very close to accounts abductees give of their own encounters. She shows that abductees get the same benefits of meaning, reassurance, and spirituality that believers in ordinary religions do. _Abducted_ is a small book, a wonderful primer for those who have never had the abduction experience themselves but are interested in the often strange inner experiences of their fellow humans. Clancy writes with wit and with genuine sympathy and understanding of her subjects, and readers will find them far less strange than they had initially seemed.
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Look Inside the Human Memory Machine, December 4, 2005
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FAIR WARNING: This excellent, well-written book isn't really about aliens at all -- it's about the psychological mechanisms that drive the human memory machine. If you're looking for a lively debate about the existence, or non-existence, of alien visitors to Earth, find another writer.

Susan Clancy is a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Harvard University. She has also worked in Nicaragua as an economic development advisor. She doesn't believe in extra-terrestrial visitors and she's very open about that from the get-go.

The real purpose of her research, as documented in this book, is to determine what "abductees" have in common from a psychological standpoint -- to answer these five questions:

-- How do people come to believe they were abducted by aliens? In other words, how did these imaginary "memories" come to exist in the first place?
-- Why do abductees have memories if it didn't really happen?
-- Why are abduction stories so consistent? (They're not.)
-- Who gets abducted?
-- If it didn't happen, why would an abductee want to believe it?

At the risk of over-simplification, Clancy's answer is this: Virtually all abduction reports were reported only AFTER Hollywood and the publishing industry popularized this type of narrative, starting in the late 1940s and continuing in the 1960s - 1980s. Most abductees are not insane or psychotic, but they do test very high on objective laboratory measuresments for what is called "schizotypy" -- the tendency to think eccentrically and to believe in "magical thinking" (e.g., that certain numbers have magical powers). They're often loners who are very interested in UFO studies and other paranormal phenomenon long before they claim to have been abducted.

Clancy and her team interviewed, at length, about 50 "abductees." In the course of her report, we learn a great deal about the biological and psychological mechanisms that shape the human memory system. It's a fascinating look at how the brain works and how we interpret stored information based on pre-conceived beliefs. A few sections get repetitive here and there, but generally speaking Clancy's writing is lively and fun to read.

In the final chapter, she theorizes about why these people WANT to believe in these traumatic abductions, despite the pain and disruption the memories cause. Her answer is a fascinating proposal that deserves further study, both from a scientific and religious perspective. Don't miss this short little book!

(Note: Some of the material here is very sexual and sometimes violent, so I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone under the age of 16.)
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37 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Replies to her critics, January 3, 2006
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perch1 (Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
Clancy's style in ABDUCTED is light and friendly with plainly-presented facts. She comes across as down-to-earth and self-aware (e.g., "I got a grip and shut up," pg 28). Her sympathetic but unswerving conclusions are a relief in this contentious area. Thanks to her book, I no longer find abductees exasperating but can respect and find common ground with them. I'd like to repay Clancy for this welcome book by rebutting a few reviewer criticisms.

For example, reviewers objected that the Hills and the Allagash abductees were awake and in groups, thus their experiences can't be explained as the effects of "sleep paralysis". But those examples, given by the reviewers, exactly fit Clancy's algorithm (pgs 33, 51) for wakeful abductions! (1) They were not immediately aware of being abducted and (2) only decided weeks later that they "must've" been taken. (3) Before gaining their memories they actively collected UFO information, and (4) both groups recovered their memories in hypnosis.

Giese complained that "many abductees recall vast portions of their experience(s) w/o the aid of hypnosis." Clancy beat him to it by noting that although it's less common, non-hypnotic recovery occurs (pg 58) and any memories can grow in detail over time (pg 68).

Giese also sneered: "Interesting that many abductees want to believe their experience was NOT real." But identifying possible benefits of unpleasant abduction-memories is a key product of the book! (1) The memories explain many troubling things in an abductee's life (pg 33); (2) these exonerative explanations can't be disproved (pg 145); (3) the experiences can expand an abductee's worldview to "awe-inspiring" degrees (pg 149); and (4) the memories can make an abductee feel "chosen" or "special" and bring outside attention (pg 140). Furthermore, Clancy's abductees disagree with Giese: not one said he/she would prefer to have NOT had the experience (pg 149).

O'Connor fumes that Clancy's writing is so bad that "If not for Google, I still would have no idea as to what the 'MUFON' is that she refers to in the first chapter." But Clancy spells it out right there on page 4, "Mutual UFO Network." And it's in the index, for heaven's sake. (A nicely done index, too.) O'Connor also complained that Clancy gave "no explanation of ... who performed the [hypnosis] studies or any other vital details." But there is a footnote - A FOOTNOTE! - at the end of the disputed sentence (pg 59) leading to 3 hypnosis-related citations that are followed by dozens more.

Other criticisms are unaddressably vague. When claiming that Clancy "gets facts blatantly wrong in many cases" and that "Clancy contradicts her own statements continually," Bowman and O'Connor should've given examples.

One-star reviewers' core complaint is that Clancy doesn't believe in UFOs. Several said the book's real purpose is to attack ideas of alien life and visitation. But Clancy spent the equivalent of only 4 full pages debunking aliens (circa pgs 25, 44, & 137).

A reviewer said Clancy's "fear" prevented her from admitting "reality." But Clancy reported repeatedly being forced (by EVIDENCE) to change her mind: "Robert shattered my preconceptions" (pg 23); results were "contrary to my hypothesis" (pg 17); "I didn't anticipate" certain responses (pg 147); and, "I started out on this research project agreeing with [Sagan]-but today I respectfully disagree" (pg 150).

Clancy also disclosed her academic naivete (pg 15) and her self-perceived failings as a scientist: "I realize that my initial response...was not only immature and unprofessional but profoundly unscientific" (pg 148). She openly reported her astonishment with her own hypnosis (pg 64), false memories (pg 69), and sleep paralysis (pg 49). It's clearly not from fear or lack of intellectual integrity that Clancy is not a believer.

Even if you don't believe her conclusions, I think we can all agree that Clancy's book is an accessible, well-documented, and plausible understanding of alien abductions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ABDUCTED IS EXCELLENT EXPLANATION OF A TROUBLING PHENOMENON, September 17, 2013
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Susan A. Clancy provides an excellent explanation for the alien abduction phenomenon, and she manages to do so in a conversational tone that makes this an easy and informative read. This subject is not to be taken lightly, and Clancy takes her subject and her subjects seriously and treats both with respect. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it highly to anyone interested in the complexities of the human mind. Totally worthwhile!
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28 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Insufficient research, poorly written (refering to both style and the blatant grammatical and spelling errors...), February 23, 2007
By 
Susan Clancy's Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens explores exactly what the title states; however, not in any depth required of a serious scientific study. Clancy does an insufficient amount of research, writes six chapters stating what she could have easily stated in one, and proceeds to insult her readers in assuming they are unable to perform the simplest of deductions.

Clancy began her research of "abductees" by placing ads in newspapers reading, "Have you been abducted by aliens?" Surely, a study of this nature being conducted at Harvard should be approached with more caution. Any sane person would assume that the ad is some kind of joke, or even an experiment conducted by an "abductee" herself. The wording alone would only attract strange people, which would then further the assumption that anyone claiming to have been abducted is not normal, or sane for that matter. In order to be taken seriously, Clancy should have chosen more appropriate wording to get her point across. After reading the footnote, I found that Clancy had actually been requested to change the wording in the ads to something more professional. So far, Clancy is off to a very rough start.

During her research, Clancy makes it a point to consider each "abductee's" story as a serious matter. She believes these stories must be taken seriously in order to properly approach the issues of how and why people believe that they have been abducted by aliens. Clancy's research consists of many interviews with many different types of people; however, for something Clancy takes so seriously, that is an insufficient amount of research. She never searches for hard evidence, or even asks for it. She makes no visits to their homes to see what kind of environment they live in, among other things. Any conclusion drawn solely on the accounts of people who are "out there" to begin with is nonsense. From this moment on, it is nearly impossible to take any of Clancy's deductions seriously.

The first chapter of the book is called "How do you wind up studying aliens?" I highly doubt that anyone who buys a book titled Abducted is hoping to get twenty pages on how the author stumbled upon such a topic. I read the book to learn about Clancy's research and conclusions, not to learn how she got into such a field. Each chapter thereafter says practically the exact same thing, with exception to some of the explanations that Clancy gives for rare varying abduction stories. She is excruciatingly repetitive in stating that their experiences must be from sleep paralysis, hypnotism, or simply having watched too much TV. Clancy spends a great deal of the book recalling a countless number of abduction stories that, by the third chapter, seem to all generally be the same. The only time the book is of any interest is when she finally gets to her point and tells the reader what has, for no reason at all, taken her so long to say. An example of this would be chapter three in its entirety, where the point is that hypnosis could distort and alter memory. I highly doubt that she needed an entire chapter to get that idea across.

Which brings me to my next point. Clancy, throughout the book, proceeds to insult her readers in assuming they are unable to perform the simplest of deductions. She even seems to assume that her readers do not even know the most basic of scientific terms. I am only twenty-one and reading my first book on alien abductions, and even I know every single term she so explicitly explained eight times each. Clancy will clearly explain, step by step, how she deduced from an abduction story that the "abductee" must have been experiencing sleep paralysis, which after hearing the definition so many times, I, along with the majority of her readers, could have done in my sleep. It seems as though Clancy wrote her book with an incompetent audience in mind. Her writing makes Carl Sagan's writing look like Latin!

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I was bored the entire way through which is quite terrible considering the book's length. Most of what I learned from reading Clancy's Abductions: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens I could have learned from a five minute conversation with my high school science teacher. Clancy not only does insufficient research, causing her conclusions to be nonsense, but she repeats the same ideas over and over as if she has nothing else to say. She spends the majority of the book explaining terms and pointing out the most obvious of deductions, which I find rather insulting. Of course, the icing on the cake is the two blatant errors, one spelling and one grammatical, made in the writing, which ironically enough, is the only part of the book I actually enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This book!, November 25, 2013
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This book explains the abduction phenomenon perfectly. I have been in that state of sleep where I thought I heard talking round me, but it was the same state of mind that abductees describe, they just have a more vivid imagination!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abducted Review, December 9, 2010
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This review is from: Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Paperback)
Susan A. Clancy, author of Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Abducted By Aliens, makes strong and persuasive arguments suggesting that alien abduction claims are likely experiences that can be attributed to more plausible and realistic interpretations. Although "abductees" stand firm in their beliefs that they were truly abducted by aliens without a shadow of a doubt, there are several alternative explanations that are more probable, including experiences related to sleep paralysis. This book provides a thorough description and analysis of Clancy's research on specifically why and how some people come to believe that they were abducted by aliens. She describes the many concepts behind false memory creation and the fallible methods used to extract these so-called "memories" from the minds of alien abductees. Clancy takes the care to emphasize the fact that a surprisingly large number of people who claim to have had extra-terrestrial encounters do not have a history of psychotic issues nor are they particularly abnormal or bizarre in nature; on the contrary they appear to be relatively "normal."

There are several basic facts to consider in regarding the actual possibility that people could be abducted by aliens. Many have made other claims apart from actual abduction; some maintain that they themselves are half alien, half human, and others say that they were the victims of grotesque sexual experiments from aliens. Clancy brings attention to the fact that it is very difficult for life of any kind to be created in the universe in the first place. The author states , "if we consider all prerequisites for life, this drastically reduces the number of planets available" (44). She is referring to the fact that there are dozens of factors and elements required for a planet to have the atmosphere necessary to allow for life to exist. Important considerations include distance from a sun, temperature, and existence of water. From what our scientists currently understand about the universe, we are unaware of any such planets that meet this criteria. The author goes on to postulate, "What are the odds that [life] evolved far enough to be intelligent? Evolution is opportunistic and unpredictable, and there's no exorable path from one-celled organisms to intelligent, self-aware life" (44). Even if life did indeed exist on another planet somewhere in the universe, it continues to be unlikely that the life form evolved to an intelligent being with the ability to cognitively function at a level similar or higher than humans on Earth. To take this one step further, it is difficult to believe that these intelligent life forms would be so interested in the study of human beings on our planet. Clancy makes a logical and objective argument that the chances of this scenario occuring are extremely rare; therefore it is likely that alien abduction claims are simply an answer assumed by supposed "victims" that do not have any logical basis.

Clancy's research sheds light on the reasoning behind why people are so convinced they have had such a personal encounter with aliens. The book focuses specifically on methods in which memories can actually be created through a variety of ways. Some subjects Clancy interviewed were less confident about the possibility of alien abduction (although they considered it a potential explanation for certain feelings and physical problems), while other subjects had extremely detailed memories about their experience and had much stronger convictions about their beliefs. Clancy attributes this strange observation to the fact that the individuals with the more detailed memories sought out or fell into the hands of trained psychotherapy professionals or specialized alien abduction researchers or therapists. The job of these professionals is to assist the "victims" in retrieving lost memories that are perhaps buried deep in the subconscious. The main technique used by alien abduction therapists to retrieve memories from abductees is through the process of hypnosis. Hypnosis is an unreliable method of uncovering hidden memories because the subject merely responds to certain suggestions made by the therapist in a dream-like state where there is a blurred line between dream and reality. The hypnotist himself suggests a memory to the subject in an altered state of consciousness. Clancy states that "the key to generating false memories [...] is the protracted imagining of an event in the presence of authority figures who encourage belief in and confirm the authenticity of the memories that emerge" and that also people "won't seek out such a person to help [them] `find memories' unless [they] already believe it's possible" (62-63). It is human nature to hold onto beliefs based on personal experience, and hypnosis has the ability to induce an artificial experience or memory into the unconscious that many people would accept as a truth. Clancy even admits she was once hypnotized and completely believed that the memory that was retrieved was real, until her sister reminded her of the actual experience. People who strongly believe they were abducted by aliens have an active desire to find evidence to support their beliefs. This is true of many humans who struggle with the problem of having no support to confirm their personal beliefs. Alien abductees who go out of their way to meet with these professional hypnotists are seeking confirmation for what they already believe; inversely, the alien abduction researchers and therapists are more than happy to have additional support that their own beliefs have been validated as well. Therefore, hypnosis cannot be considered a reliable method of retrieving memories; on the contrary, hypnosis creates them. The fallible methodology of hypnosis further detracts from any real logical evidence that extra-terrestrials are visiting our Earth and abducting and experimenting on human beings.

Clancy discusses the various reasons why some people are so willing to accept the alien abduction theory as a probable explanation behind bizarre or strange events experienced by average, "normal" people when other plausible explanations are more likely. The author notes that sleep paralysis, a condition that occurs when our sleep cycles become out of synch temporarily and there is a brief overlap between dream state and wake state, is a likely explanation for the peoples' visions of strange life forms being clearly visible when they feel awake. The visions are indeed there, but it is more likely that it is a cross-over from the dream state when the person awakens and is unable to move their body. It is a terrifying experience. Sleep paralysis is a condition that has been occurring for centuries, yet the attribution to an extra-terrestrial visitor was not considered a potential reason for the experience until the 1960's, when sci-fi movies and television shows with alien abduction themes became widely received by the public. People may be willing to accept alien visitation as a likely theory for the sleep paralysis experience because humans by nature retain information that they are exposed to in order to form a belief about something; all of the likely indicators that they have seen or heard about from popular culture contribute to their strong convictions. Clancy supports this by stating, "alien abductions have become one of the explanations culturally available to us [...] the reason they ultimately endorse abduction is actually quite scientific: it is the best fit for their data - their personal experiences" (52).

Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens successfully explains the logical alternative explanations that are often times overlooked when a person experiences something so bizarre and discomforting that they attribute the experience to alien encounters. Clancy states, "you can't disprove alien abductions. All you can do is argue that they're improbable and that the evidence adduced by the believer is insufficient to justify the belief" (50). To begin with, it is highly unlikely that aliens intelligent enough to have the technology to come to Earth to perform experiments on us even exist. Although it may be easy for people to believe that they had contact with a life form from outer space, other more likely explanations exist. The human mind is easily transformable in terms of memory, making it easy to relive an experience or uncover a memory that someone was initially unaware of. This book is important for people to read because it touches on general scientific experiences that can be applied to many different scenarios other than specifically alien abductions. All humans are susceptible to false memory creation as well as a desire to reaffirm their beliefs. The author appropriately discusses the importance of thinking critically and having an objective perspective on a situation before making such a strong claim.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science and evidence, March 25, 2014
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Susan Clancy clearly defines abduction experiences in a way not belittling of the folks having them but at the same time asking the age old question "where is the proof?" I found myself feeling sympathy while also remaining unconvinced of the abduction experiences. The unreliability of human memory is incredibly well explained.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on human memory, January 27, 2013
This review is from: Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Paperback)
I bought this book because I don't believe in aliens, and wanted to see what a researcher would say on the subject. (If you're a believer in aliens, go look up the Fermi Paradox, and do some reading about near light speed intergalactic space travel and Special Relativity.) The book does use the "abducted by aliens theme", but only to pursue a treatise on human memory. I fell in love with this book almost immediately. It also covers the essence of hypnosis and related memory issues. On the abduction issue, she makes it clear that she is definitely not a believer. Her logic is impeccable. Here's a quote: "I can say with great confidence that if you're not a believer already (at least to some extent), you're not going to acquire memories of alien abduction." page 63 In other words, if you don't believe in aliens, they're going to bypass you when abducting humans for their deviant belly button experiments! It's a great little book. Highly recommended.

Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens
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5.0 out of 5 stars A key argument in the alien abduction debate, November 27, 2012
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This review is from: Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Paperback)
I read two of the most talked about books that argue for the reality of alien abduction. This one makes me think they are probably in error in their conclusions. This book should be read by people on all sides of the issue, and those in between, as it presents in a logical manner other possibilities than actual alien abductions. This author convinced me it is a psychological phenomenon rather than an alien one. The only people that might want to avoid this book are those who really, really want to believe in alien abductions regardless of what evidence may actually indicate about the phenomenon. This is an interesting, probably accurate, psychological analysis.
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Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens
Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan A. Clancy (Paperback - April 30, 2007)
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