Astronomie - ASU researchers say were ready for outer-space visitors (as long as theyre friendly)





Michael Varnum, an associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, wondered how people would respond to the discovery of extraterrestrial life.
Courtesy of Michael Varnum

In almost all the sci-fi movies we’ve seen, the arrival of space aliens hardly ever bodes well. We run screaming, barricade our doors and wait frantically for tanks, fighter jets and Will Smith to rescue us.

But two Arizona State University researchers found that people view the possibility of extraterrestrial life, whether microbial or intelligent, in a positive light. We are likely to see it as a kindly E.T. and not a flesh-eating xenomorph.

Michael Varnum, an associate professor of psychology, came up with the idea of studying how people would respond to the discovery of alien life after a meeting at the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s Interplanetary Initiative, where researchers consider the future of humans and space.

He and co-author Jung Yul Kwon studied 1,000 Americans and then 2,000 more people in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Spain, gauging reactions to hypothetical announcements about the discovery of both microbial and intelligent life.


Jung Yul Kwon, a social psychology graduate student at Arizona State University, was surprised by the results of his studies of how people would respond to the alien life, whether microbial or intelligent.
Courtesy of Jung Yul Kwon

Responses were free-form, and the researchers analyzed them using a linguistic analysis software program.

Only the British expressed some worries about the risk of contact with intelligent life. (Too many "Doctor Who" episodes?) 

Otherwise, the results were uniformly similar.

“All of this sort of points to the idea that our attitudes would be positive,” Varnum said. “People think it’s neat."

He thinks he knows why. “As a species, we’re really into novelty. We like to explore and find new things,” he said,  “... as long as there isn’t an obvious threat.”

(I guess we don’t suspect the aliens would come here for higher paying jobs and better schools for their children.)

The researchers expect similar results elsewhere.

“It seems like everyone has pretty much the same response to this, and that’s really hopeful,” Varnum said.

It means if and when extraterrestrial life is discovered, there'd be no reason to conceal it. We can handle it. We'll even put the coffee on. 


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