Humans will actually be very happy to meet aliens, according to new research.
Hollywood might have led us to expect that an alien invasion would be greeted with tanks and guns. But some of the first serious research into how people would feel about meeting extraterrestrials shows that we would be far more positive than you might think.
"If we came face to face with life outside of Earth, we would actually be pretty upbeat about it," said Arizona State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Varnum. "So far, there's been a lot of speculation about how we might respond to this kind of news, but until now, almost no systematic empirical research."
To explore how people might react, scientists had them read news reports about a number of potential alien discoveries. They then found out how they were feeling after doing so – exploring whether they seemed excited or fearful – using a special software programme that could analyse people's language.
Their reactions were very positive, the researchers found. Subjects said they would be excited even if the life was primitive or happening elsewhere – as any encounter with extraterrestrials is likely to actually be.
Further work had people describe how they thought microbial life would be found on another planet, and how they would react. Again, the software found that people were more positive about that news than negative.
Another study divided into people two groups, and had them read stories about the potential discovery of alien life or the possible creation of synthetic human life in a lab. It found they were very excited to read about the alien life – far more excited than they would be about the creation of life on Earth.
And additional research looked at one of the most famous pieces of news about the potential of alien life in recent weeks. Scientists had people read about the suggestion that a a rock flying past Earth – known as Oumuamua – could in fact be an alien spacecraft, in news that sounded like something out of science fiction.
It found that people were very excited about that possibility, despite the fact it could mean aliens were headed towards Earth.
Professor Varnum said that taken together the studies seemed to suggest "if we find out we're not alone, we'll take the news rather well".
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