Skeptic News: The X-files effect

Over the last six weeks of summer it has been reported that sightings of UFOs have spiked considerably.

The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) reports that there were 1,013 such sightings in August, up from an average of about 500 per month nationwide. There are a number of possible reasons for this – multiple sightings of the same objects in built up areas, an increase in alien activity in the skies above us or simply that due to more clement weather more people are outside casting their eyes upwards.

However another more down to Earth reason for the recent spike could be the impact of psychological effect called priming or as it is often more colloquially referred to the X-files or Will Smith effect. When the X-files was broadcast the number of UFO sightings in general increased and this is thought to be down to the influence of the TV show and similar peaks and spikes in sightings are found when other science fiction shows or films have aired – including Men in Black and even Doctor Who.

As reported in the Guardian in 2009, David Clarke, the UFO consultant at the National Archives, has made use of multiple Freedom of Information requests to get Whitehall to release UFO files. He has supplied the data he has gathered to the Guardian for every year between 1959 and 2008 and they have mapped on some major UFO sci fi moments. The tables given on the Guardian website make an interesting case for the “X-files” effect but in lieu of a more advanced and rigorous statistical analysis can only point us in what might be the truth. Which may or may not be “out there”.

Are more aliens visiting Earth or are we more influenced by TV and film than we might want to admit?

If you have any Skeptic News you can submit it here.

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