Extraterrestrial Life - Artist Depiction. Source: ISTOCKPHOTO

How would we – the people of Earth – really react when astronomers uncover the mystery and the headlines read “Aliens among us” or “Life on Mars (or any other planet)?”

We have all at one point wondered if aliens are living amongst us. More than that, some of us have even tried to convince others that there are aliens among us, like reporting UFO sightings. And there are astronomy geeks like us, who never skip any news revelation or article that contains words like “life on another planet” or “alien life”, or anything remotely related to the existence of aliens. 

Aliens looking out. Source: Getty Images

But let’s talk reality. There have been discussions about the discovery of alien life, and scientists predict the results could be pandemonium – or the opposite. However they always like to conduct experiments before jumping to conclusions.

Well, recently, a study was conducted by Michael Varnum, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University to contemplate people’s reaction to alien existence. They concluded that it would be more like E.T than Independence Day.

How the study took place 

Dr. Varnum and his team collected five relevant discoveries on alien life elsewhere: (i) Pulsars were discovered in 1967, which initially thought to be broadcasts from extraterrestrial life. (ii) The famous WOW signal discovered in 1977, which was also thought to be extraterrestrial broadcasts. (iii) The 1996 discovery of potential fossilised extraterrestrial microbes in meteorites of Martian origin. (iv) In 2015, it was discovered that Tabby’s star was dimming down periodically, which led to the thought of a presence of a Dyson sphere around that star. (v) A recent 2017 discovery of Earth-like exoplanets in the habitable zone of a star.

The team evaluated the psychological reactions to these news using a software called LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) – a text analysis software. The results indicated that the language contained more positive emotions than that of negative. His exact statement on this was: “If we came face to face with life outside of Earth, we would actually be pretty upbeat about it”.  

In a different study, 500 participants were asked to write down their hypothetical thoughts and reactions to an announcement about extraterrestrial microbial life existence. Once again, the results were surprisingly positive. One of the participant said, “I would have some excitement about the news. It would be exciting even if it was a primitive form”.

In another study, a new set of 500 participants were picked and divided into two groups. One group was asked to read a The New York Times article from 1996 about possible evidence of ancient microbial life on a Mars meteorite. The second group was given a 2010 article from the same newspaper about creation of synthetic human-made life created in a laboratory. Here too, the team observed a more significant positive response than negative.

Dr.Varnum commented that, “These studies show that taken together, this suggests if we find out we’re not alone, we’ll take the news rather well.”

You can complete research paper here.


However, my personal thoughts about how exactly people would react to the news is tentative. Although research says people will be positive about it, I believe human perspective might change when a hypothetical situation becomes a reality.

Who is with me on this one?

Love space? Be real, who doesn’t. Have a read about the Mars exploration rover and its incredible discoveries.

Writing under the pseudonym – Halley – a Cyber-security analyst by profession. Passionate about astronomy which set my path to write about it. I love reading, home-cooking and anything adventurous. Intrigued about the unknown.