Space Research

How will humans actually react to news of alien life?

Science fiction novels and movies have always shown humans taken the news about alien life in a state of shock and awe and each of these encounters almost always end up in a war, but reality – at least according to a study – is completely opposite.

Researchers have said in a study that humans will actually react to news of alien life rather positively. Arizona State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Varnum says that if in future humans come face to face with alien life beyond Earth, we will be upbeat about it.

Analyzing language in newspaper articles about past potential extraterrestrial life discoveries, Varnum and his team wanted to extract what we humans will actually feel if alien life actually exists and we come face to face with it. They found that language used in newspaper articles showed significantly more positive than negative emotions.

In a separate study, the team asked more than 500 different participants to write about their own hypothetical reactions and humanity’s hypothetical reaction to an announcement that extraterrestrial microbial life had been discovered. Participants’ responses also showed significantly more positive than negative emotions, both when contemplating their own reactions and those of humanity as a whole.

One of the participants noted that they would be excited to some extent if the news were real and if the life was in primitive form, they would be more excited.

The team of researchers carried out yet another study wherein they presented past news coverage of scientific discoveries to more than 500 people and asked them to write about their reactions. The participants were divided into two groups. In one group, participants read a past article from The New York Times describing possible evidence of ancient microbial life on a Mars meteorite. The second group of participants read an article from the Times describing the claimed creation of synthetic human made life created in the lab.

The team found more positive reactions to the news rather than negative ones and this effect was stronger in response to reading about extraterrestrial life than human made synthetic life.

In unpublished results presented at the conference, Varnum analyzed recent media coverage of the possibility that the interstellar Oumuamua asteroid might actually be a spaceship. Here too, he found evidence of more positive than negative emotions, suggesting that we may also react positively to the news of the discovery of evidence of intelligent life from elsewhere in the universe.

Varnum said the studies show that “taken together, this suggests if we find out we’re not alone, we’ll take the news rather well.”

About the author

Steven Anderson

Steven Anderson

Steven has over 10 years of experience in online media industry at various positions throughout the editorial cycle. Because of his interest in presenting scientific knowledge to the general public as well as providing a platform for information dissemination, Steven decided to bring together a team of like-minded individuals and started The Space News. You can find his contact details here.

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