The terms alien abduction or abduction phenomenon describe "subjectively real memories of being taken secretly against one’s will by apparently nonhuman entities and subjected to complex physical and psychological procedures." People claiming to have been abducted are usually called "abductees" or "experiencers." Typical claims involve the experiencer being subjected to a forced medical examination which emphasizes their reproductive system. Abductees sometimes claim to have been warned against environmental abuse and the dangers of nuclear weapons. Consequently, while many of these purported encounters are described as terrifying, some have been viewed as pleasurable or transformative.
Most scientists and mental health professionals overwhelmingly doubt that the phenomenon occurs literally as reported and instead attribute the experiences to deception, suggestibility fantasy-proneness, hypnotizability, false-memory syndrome, personality, sleep phenomena, psychopathology, psychodynamics and environmental factors.". Skeptic Robert Sheaffer also sees similarity between the aliens depicted in early science fiction films, in particular, Invaders From Mars, and those reported to have actually abducted people. The first alien abduction claim to be widely publicized was the Betty and Barney Hill abduction in 1961. Reports of the abduction phenomenon have been made around the world, but are most common in English speaking countries, especially the United States. The contents of the abduction narrative often seem to vary with the home culture of the alleged abductee. Alien abductions have been the subject of conspiracy theories and of popular science fiction works such as The X-Files.
Most scientists reject claims that the phenomenon literally occurs as reported. However, there is little doubt that many apparently stable persons who report alien abductions are sincere: as reported in the Harvard University Gazette in 1992, Dr. John Edward Mack investigated over 800 claimed abductees, and "spent countless therapeutic hours with these individuals only to find that what struck him was the 'ordinariness' of the population, including a restaurant owner, several secretaries, a prison guard, college students, a university administrator, and several homemakers ... 'The majority of abductees do not appear to be deluded, confabulating, lying, self-dramatizing, or suffering from a clear mental illness,' he maintained." "While psychopathology is indicated in some isolated alien abduction cases," Stanley Krippner et al. confirmed, "assessment by both clinical examination and standardized tests has shown that, as a group, abduction experients are not different from the general population in term of psychopathology prevalence." Other experts who have argued that abductees' mental health is no better or worse than average include psychologists John Wilson and Rima Laibow, and psychotherapist David Gotlib.
Some abduction reports are quite detailed. An entire subculture has developed around the subject, with support groups and a detailed mythos explaining the reasons for abductions: The various aliens Greys, Reptilians, "Nordics" and so on are said to have specific roles, origins, and motivations. Abduction claimants do not always attempt to explain the phenomenon, but some take independent research interest in it themselves, and explain the lack of greater awareness of alien abduction as the result of either extraterrestrial or governmental interest in cover-up.
Most abduction accounts generally follow the sequence noted below, though not all abductions feature all the events:
1. Capture- The abductee is forcibly taken from terrestrial surroundings to an apparent alien space craft.
2. Examination- Invasive medical or scientific procedures are performed on the abductee.
3. Conference- The abductors speak to the abductee.
4. Tour- The abductees are given a tour of their captors' vessel.
5. Loss of Time- Abductees rapidly forget the majority of their experience.
6. Return- The abductees are returned to earth. Occasionally in a different location from where they were allegedly taken or with new injuries or disheveled clothing.
7. Theophany- The abductee has a profound mystical experience, accompanied by a feeling of oneness with God or the universe.
8. Aftermath- The abductee must cope with the psychological, physical, and social effects of the experience.