Some individuals, such as the late Carl Sagan, suggest that what is really going on in relation to alien abductions is some sort of mass psychosis, hysteria, or hallucination. Examples of hysterical contagion, whereby people believe that something has happened to them because they are aware that it has happened to others, do exist. However, according to David Jacobs, abduction claims “do not fit the model of mass hysteria.” (Jacobs, 1992).
Typically, for mass hysteria or hysterical contagion to occur, the victims have to know each other or in some way have contact with one another to engage in mutual reinforcement. Although some abductees do know one another, most do not, and they have little in common. Further, the abduction phenomenon is not restricted to a particular geographic location or brief time period, as is usually the case in mass hysteria.
One of the most bizarre explanations for the abduction phenomenon is the idea that they stem from a collective unconscious, or cumulative memory, which “embodies certain archetypal memories that are inherent in all human minds.” (Jacobs, 1992).
Carl Jung addressed the issue of UFO sightings from this perspective in his book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, published in 1959. He wondered whether UFOs might not be “materialized psychism – actual physical or paraphysical objects created by the collective unconscious.” (Bryan, 1995) While the idea of a collective unconscious is not something that has been supported by any solid evidence in the psychological community, it is a concept that deserves further research. If it were in fact a valid explanation, it would completely change the way we view psychology, and “the implications for humanity would be enormous.” (Jacobs, 1992)
John Mack, of Harvard Medical School, a long-time champion of alien abductees and a paranormal philosopher king of sorts put forward that the abduction phenomenon transcends cultural boundaries. In his second book, Passport to the Cosmos, chronicles abduction as a cross-cultural phenomenon”; he finds evidence of sexual and ecological parallels to American abduction reports on almost every continent.