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Friday, July 29, 2016

Are "Monsters" A Problem for Psychologists?

While writing a chapter for my upcoming book, I found this article from the Newark, Ohio, Advocate, titled "Unusual events in Ohio spark imagination."

It reads as follows:

"COLUMBUS (AP) - Public imagination conjuring up a hairy beast killing sheep near Lima or a UFO landing in Fairfield County is viewed as normal, perhaps healthy, by an Ohio State University psychologist.
"'I see it as a very natural process,' says Dr. Anthony G. Greenwald. 'Since we were very young children, our parents have taught us that everything has to have a cause. When we become adults we conjure up causes for mysterious events that are not immediately explained.'
"Greenwald's credentials as a social psychologist include undergraduate degrees from Yale University, a doctorate from Harvard University, faculty member at Ohio State since 1965 and editor of the national 'Journal of Personality and Social Psychology' published by the American Psychology Association.
"Several incidents around Ohio in recent years have touched off imaginative, though unfounded, solutions.
"In July 1972, a man in Marion County told authorities he saw a seven-foot tall creature smelling of limburger cheese running along a road.
"The next month a woman in Wyandot County said a big black creature jumped out of a ditch beside her car.
"A year later an eight-foot tall hairy creature was roaming the countryside northwest of Columbus.

Are Sasquatch and other cryptids created
by our imaginations?
"Last summer several animals died of mutilation in Hocking County and rumors circulated that farmers, fearing the unknown, answered knocks at their doors with shotguns.
"A short time alter reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) cropped up when a farmer in Fairfield County couldn't explain what tore up his corn field. Finally it was traced to a grandson who did it as a prank.

Can UFOs and other phenomena be explained in the same way?

"Allen County sheep kills, which started last winter and now number more than 100, are believed by the sheriff's department to be the work of dog packs running at night. 
"Animal expert Lewis Caverras of Xenia examined the tracks and said it apparently was a bear.
"Bears are virtually unknown in the region northeast of Lime.
"'I don't understand why some of the explanations become popular,' Greenwald said. 'especially those that apparently are dangerous.
"'When we don't know the cause of a sheep kill we invent a cause that threatens us. Why we invent a threatening cause, social psychologists don't understand.
"'It adds fear to daily lives that is more dangerous than the evidence demands...
"'But there is nothing abnormal about people creating dangerous causes. It may be a healthy thing. It may keep us on our toes, alert to actual dangers, a reminder to not trust wild animals.'
"Greenwald does not believe the level of education or current lifestyles are a factor. He noted people have conjured up wild solutions,  black magic and old wives tales for generations.
"'The more educated are more likely to come up with different types of explanations,' he said. 'The likelihood of trying to explain something more dangerous than the evidence supports is good regardless of the level of education.
"'It may be that the more educated you are the more eager yoy [sic] are to find a cause. But I don't understand the kind of causes that may be invented. Some are picked up and spread by the news media and people adopt them.'
"Greenwald related the fear phenomena to the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
"'We tend to believe it was a conspiracy and not an isolated incident,' he said. 'that the threat is more than just to one immediate victim.
"'A farmer in Ohio who decides it may be a monster killing sheep is in the same class with those who believe the King and Kennedy deaths may be a conspiracy.'"
"Congress is re-examining the assassinations for possible conspiracies.
"'When someone finds it is a dog killing sheep and this is documented, the rumors disappear, so the degree of belief (in rumors) is no more than moderate and it is dropped when better evidence comes along.' Greenwald said."

Is Greenwald right? Are all the "monsters" that we see and cause mysterious things to happen, like Bigfoot, or chupacabras, or UFOs, etc., just conjured up in our imaginations? Or are they really there?

Certainly the media and sometimes mass hysteria can make people think that "monsters" that are not there really are there. And certainly sometimes there are hoaxes and honest misidentifications. But, there are certainly some sightings of strange begins and things that cannot be explained in those ways. What they really are remains a mystery.

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