When alien first contact is depicted in fiction, the story is usually accompanied by worldwide violence as alien spacecraft destroy Earth cities, and humanity mounts a last-ditch desperate defense to save itself. “Independence Day” and “War of the Worlds” come to mind. However, a recent Study published in Frontiers In Psychology suggests that humans would react positively to a real-world discovery of Alien Life, at least one that doesn’t involve mass casualties and destruction.

The discovery scenarios

The study presented news articles based on real-world stories about possible alien life. The scenarios were; the discovery of microbial life on Mars, speculation that the dimming of the light from Tabby’s Star was the result of an alien megastructure, and the discovery of Earth-like exoplanets.

In each scenario, the participants in the study responded with more positive expressions than negative ones. The results of the survey seemed to contrary to the narrative that the discovery of ET would cause mass panic.

The reasons for the result

Of course, a little careful consideration suggests a reason for the results of the study. Each of the scenarios involved events that would not directly impact the lives of ordinary Earthlings. To be sure, microbes on Mars would set up a fight between scientists who would want to preserve the Red Planet for study and advocates of Mars colonies like Elon Musk. However, even the idea of an alien megastructure would just be a curiosity, at least until someone develops a warp drive.

What about more hypothetical scenarios?

If a study were conducted exposing participants to more hypothetical first contact scenarios, then the results may be different.

Imagine the reaction to the arrival of an alien spaceship in full view of everyone. One supposes all would depend on the message the aliens would impart,

For instance, if they said, “We are representatives of the Galactic Federation, and we would like to open trade negotiations” one would suspect that the reactions would run the gamut. Some would, no doubt, be welcoming of our new alien friends. Others, especially those who have read and seen depictions, in science fiction, of such events, will be more suspicious. Does ET have a hidden agenda? Will civilization collapse due to culture shock? And what is that book they left behind, “To Serve Man,” anyway?

The Frontiers in Psychology study is fascinating, but the results are as meaningless as the scenarios they use to depict the discovery of alien life. It is easy to be positive about events that do not significantly affect one. A history-altering event, however, would yield vastly different results.