All the details we have regarding alien abductions come first and foremost from researchers having spoken to experiencers. Now, several abductees (following the hallmark book by Whitley Strieber) have come forward and reported their experiences firsthand. While these accounts allow for a much more thorough and insightful look into the phenomenon, they lack objectivity. Thus, the investigator plays a vital and important role in the process of identifying the event and shaping it. Unfortunately, some investigators have been accused of influencing the material to suit personal or pre-conceived agendas.
The initial interview between researcher and abductee is critical and the stories that have come out of these sessions have shaped the UFO abduction experience as we now know it. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the interview process. In doing so, we should look toward the manner and style that law enforcement agencies use in interviewing witnesses and see if there are any techniques that can assist us.
The methods suggested for the initial interview process are not to be considered "interrogation." Applying law enforcement interrogation techniques to the abduction interview are not the focus of this article.
Presently, emphasis is being placed not on acquiring information to help us understand the phenomenon, but on the care and support of individual abductees. I'm not suggesting investigators rough up abductees into talking or bully them, but as researchers we must step aside and acknowledge the goal is information, not comforting the distressed. Family and friends should be primary support contributors. If someone's family and friends do not believe them, how do we evaluate the credibility of the abductee? If an abductee can not tell his or her family about the experience, what does that suggest about the abductee's relationships? If this sounds harsh, remember that after years of alien abduction research, many of us continue to ask basis questions that have not be answered in the primary body of published work, such as: (1) Does the abductee have any sensory limitations, i.e., wear glasses or a hearing aid? (2) What medications, if any, is the abductee using? (3) Are there any indications of emotional distress in the abductee's life prior to the experience?
Are there any ways to evaluate an abductee's honesty? Does the abduction experience mask a deeper psychological problem? While we do not expect investigators to become living room psychologists, these are straight-forward concerns that must be addressed if we are to continue to present alien abductions as valid experiences. It is instructive to note that drug testing is now required for many prospective employees, yet even asking abductees about the use of medications is virtually nonexistent. Clearly, a more responsible, thorough approach to the interviewing process is needed. For this purpose I have researched the manner and procedures used by law enforcement agencies and have tailored them to the situation under discussion, the interviewing of abductees. My hope is that researchers might gain insight into the process and incorporate some standard protocols. The most significant point for field investigators to remember is that the objective is acquiring usable intelligence.
1. When initial contact is made by phone, make notes of the conversation.
2. If the abductee has seen or spoken to other investigators, try to contact them and discuss the case.
3. Find out if any unusual UFO activity has been reported in the vicinity.
4. Will it be possible to meet briefly with neighbors?
Location of Interview
1. A neutral location is best since distractions will be minimized. An abductee may feel embarrassed to discuss some details in front of family members.
2. Avoid a location where noise and a high volume of traffic would interfere with the interview.
3. If possible, avoid meeting the abductee with friends or family.
4. When a quiet coffee shop environment is not possible, an abductee's home is preferable.
5. Find out if the abductee will be able to speak with you privately.
6. If other family members will be present, ask if you will be able to be speak privately without interruption for at least one hour to insure a focused interview.
7. If young children will be present without the benefit of additional adult supervision, consider bringing a colleague along to babysit and answer the phone.
8. Inquire if the abductee has friends or family members who also believe themselves to be abductees.
9. Try to ascertain whether the abductee has been overly influence by other abductees.
10. What is the level of knowledge and interest the abductee had prior to his/her own experience?
Conduct of a Field Investigator
1. It is essential that an investigator's appearance present him/herself in the proper manner. If going to a rural town, do not wear a suit or business attire.
2. Present information about who you are and how to contact you in the future.
3. Establish a rapport with the abductee by beginning the interview with a brief talk about general everyday events.
4. It is important that the meaning of basic UFO terms are understood between investigator and abductee. It should be made clear that commonly used terms used in the UFO community have the same meaning for both investigator and abductee.
5. A sympathetic approach is important; hostile facial expressions, a disbelieving attitude or manner must be avoided when confidence and trust is being established.
The Initial Interview
1. The investigator should be able to communicate effectively and efficiently.
2. A successful field investigator has an understanding of body language, facial expressions and an abductee's attitude during the interview process.
3. An abductee's reaction to certain questions should be noted.
4. The field investigator must understand that questions are his/her primary tools. A person who is not able to ask questions, and then follow-up questions for the purpose of clarification, should not do abductee interviews.
5. Remember, the main objective of asking questions is the response.
Manner of Questions
1. Questions should be short and confined to one area (such as the "spacecraft examination period").
2. The abductee must understand the questions. Avoid vague terms.
3. Use precise questions that require an exact or specific answer.
4. Have a series of questions that result in achieving a particular goal, i.e., questions that take the abductee right up to the experience in a straightforward direction.
5. Keep questions relevant to the subject under discussion.
1. Develop questions that require the abductee to respond openly and with a narrative reply, instead of only a "yes" or "no."
2. Leading questions must be avoided. Leading questions assume a specific response and implies a given fact. Remember, no original information can be obtained through a leading question.
3. Avoid complex or two-part questions.
4. Avoid constructing questions that suggest the interviewer's attitudes or beliefs.
5. The most powerful questions are "Why?" and "Why not?"
6. Ask questions in a sequence.
7. Questions should go from general to specific.
8. Recall past answers for orientation on a question and then develop the next question. ("You said you were taken aboard a spacecraft." "How did you get from your house to the craft?")
9. Questions regarding estimates as to time, space and distance need to be repeated for accuracy.
10. Vague or indefinite answers, such as to size, should be compared to other known items. ("Was the UFO bigger than a high school basketball court?")
The Three Principal Questioning Procedures
1. Free narrative. The abductee tells the story without any prompting or questions from the interviewer.
2. Direct examination. The field investigator takes the abductee through the event in a concise, straightforward manner.
3. Exploratory examination. The use of exploratory questions by the field investigator to revisit vague, unclear parts of the story being told.
Evaluation of the Interview
It is the purpose of a field investigator to evaluate the sincerity and honesty of the interviewee. Any vague answers, inconsistent statements or inaccurate information previously stated, should be noted and re-addressed by the field investigator. If the field investigator discussed the case with a prior investigator, was the abductee consistent in retelling the experience?
Psychological/Physical Factors of the Interview
1. The field investigator must avoid emotionally responding to the abductee's story. Negative impressions or disbelief by the interviewer will only limit the amount of information gathered. Likewise, the investigator must avoid "prompting" or "encouraging" the abductee in certain directions.
2. Consider the physical responses of the interviewee. Does the interviewee show secondary signs of emotion, such as restlessness, excessive sweating and swallowing, not looking directly at interviewer, and a general tense appearance? Note the tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and gestures of the abductee during the interview.
3. Note or ask if the abductee has any visual limitations.
4. Attempt to discern how perceptive the abductee is. (Can he/she recall the color of the interviewer's coat?)
1. Police interrogators believe that events that elicit a strong emotion will be more easily recalled, but small details may be less than accurate.
2. Older people have a tendency to develop a faulty memory and this should be taken into account.
3. People tend to want to fill in the gaps of a story. An interviewer should note what is "recalled" and what is "filled-in" information.
1. The investigator must not relate his/her own personal beliefs regarding abductions or confirm any part of the abductee's story.
2. Field investigators should be aware that most people are suggestible and eager to please an interviewer.
3. Individuals with personal beliefs, theories, or specific bias, should not be field investigators. (Field investigators collecting "abduction stories involving family pets being taken" should not introduce such items during the interview process.)
4. Focusing on one part of the abductee's story must be avoided. ("I'm only interested in sex-with-aliens stuff.")
The Role of Ethics
1. Considering that the field investigator is the first person to hear about an abduction, an investigator must be responsible and set moral guidelines for him/herself.
2. With the UFO field mired in ridicule, ethical conduct and responsible reporting are essential in investigating the abduction experience.
3. The goal of the field investigator should primarily be one of securing accurate information, not self-aggrandizement or personal fame.
4. Identifying one's personal objectives ("I'm doing a book about women who have alien babies.") should never be discussed by the field investigator.
I hope that UFO researchers will seek out the many readily available police procedure manuals at their local libraries. These books will assist in helping investigators learn about the protocols of interviewing and the collection of evidence. Such self-education is possible. It can only enhance and benefit the entire UFO community, as well as bringing to the public responsible, and meaningful, research.
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