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Invasion From Mars The Anatomy Of Panic

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:52:37 -0400
Archived: Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:52:37 -0400
Subject: Invasion From Mars The Anatomy Of Panic

Source: Jeremy Dean's PsyBlog - London, UK


October 3, 2007

Invasion From Mars: The Anatomy Of Panic

In 1938 Orson Wells spooked the American nation with his classic
War of the Worlds broadcast. A psychology study of the event
makes me wonder if we could be hoodwinked again.

On October 28, 1938 many Americans believed they were being
invaded by Martians. This was the result of a Halloween stunt
orchestrated by Orson Wells in which he adapted H. G. Wells'
'War of the Worlds' to the radio and broadcast the play as
though it was actually happening.

It is estimated that of the 6 million people who heard the
broadcast, fully 1.7 million thought it was the news, not a
play, while a further 1.2 million were frightened. A few even
bought train tickets or drove off in the opposite direction to
New York, the supposed epicentre of the alien invasion.

For Professor Howard Cantril of Princeton University and
colleagues, this provided the perfect opportunity to investigate
the anatomy of panic (Cantril, Gaudet & Herzog, 1940). Shortly
after the event he interviewed 135 people in New Jersey to try
and understand how they had reacted and what might have affected
how they reacted. Broadly he found people could be categorised
in four ways:

* Those who rejected the Martian story from internal evidence.
E.g. people questioned the story's claim that military units had
arrived as rapidly as reported.

* Those who checked up on the story and found it was false. E.g.
they turned to another radio station and found no panicking

* Those who unsuccessfully checked the story.

* Those who made no attempt to check the story.

The most surprising category of people are those who failed to
check the broadcast. Cantril found that those who fell into this
category were also those who were most fearful.

Probably the most interesting results from the research were the
stories people told about how they interpreted the invasion. One
very religious woman saw the invasion as divine retribution
against what she believed was a disgusting and morally corrupt
society. Meanwhile, a student at Princeton University, despite
his intelligence and education, was convinced it was impossible
for the authority figures in the broadcast to have lied. As a
result he accepted every word.

All this sparks the question of whether this trick would work
again today. The temptation is to think that people are more
hardened and cynical to this sort of media manipulation. We're
all used to questioning the 'truth' as it is presented to us. We
also have many more channels of information to go on. It's not
just the radio nowadays, it's TV and the internet. Could you
really ever convince a substantial group of people we were about
to be invaded by some foreign power?

Surely not.

Not nowadays.


Or perhaps...

[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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