Thanks to spectacular advances in science and technology, we now know that there are billions of stars in our galaxy, and many of them have planets orbiting them. Some of these planets are in the habitable zone, where the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist on the surface. And water is essential for life as we know it.
We also have powerful telescopes that can observe these planets from afar, and analyze the light they reflect or emit. By doing so, we can infer what their atmospheres are made of, and look for signs of life.
These signs are called biosignatures, and they are features that can only be produced by living organisms. For example, on Earth, life has transformed the atmosphere by producing oxygen, ozone, and other gases that would not be present otherwise.
By looking for similar biosignatures on other worlds, we may be able to find evidence of alien life without ever visiting them. This is an amazing feat of human ingenuity and curiosity. We have figured out how to probe distant alien atmospheres from our own planet.
Recent discoveries of potentially habitable planets, mysterious signals from space, and even hints of microbial life on Mars have increased the possibility that we may soon encounter extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).
But how would we react to such a momentous event? Would we welcome them with open arms or fear them as invaders? Would we be able to communicate and cooperate with them, or would we clash and conflict? And how would our society and culture change as a result of contact with alien life?
These are some of the questions that psychologists have been exploring in recent years, using various methods such as surveys, experiments, and simulations. Their findings suggest that humans are more ready than ever to accept the existence of alien life, and that such a discovery would have positive effects on our worldview, values, and behavior.
One of the main factors that influence how humans would respond to ETI is their level of perceived similarity or difference with us. According to the similarity-attraction hypothesis, we tend to like and trust those who are similar to us, and dislike and distrust those who are different.
This applies not only to physical appearance, but also to personality, beliefs, values, and goals. Therefore, if we encounter alien life that is similar to us in some ways, we may feel more affinity and empathy towards them, and be more willing to cooperate and learn from them.
On the other hand, if we encounter alien life that is very different from us, we may feel more fear and hostility towards them, and be more likely to avoid or attack them.
Study by Michael Varnum and his colleagues at Arizona State University analyzed the language of news articles and survey responses related to past and hypothetical discoveries of alien life.
They found that people’s reactions were generally more positive than negative, and more curious than fearful. They also found that people were more accepting of microbial life than intelligent life, and more accepting of life within our solar system than beyond it.
Similarity is not the only factor that matters. Another important factor is the context and nature of the contact. If we discover alien life through passive observation, such as detecting their radio signals or finding their artifacts, we may feel more curiosity and excitement than fear or threat.
But if we encounter alien life through active interaction, such as receiving their messages or meeting them face-to-face, we may feel more anxiety and uncertainty about their intentions and capabilities.
Moreover, if we perceive alien life as benevolent and cooperative, such as offering us help or sharing their knowledge, we may feel more gratitude and admiration towards them. But if we perceive alien life as malevolent and hostile, such as harming us or invading our planet, we may feel more anger and resentment towards them.
Another factor that affects how humans would react to ETI is their individual differences in personality, attitudes, and beliefs. Some people may be more open-minded and tolerant of diversity than others, and thus more accepting of alien life.
Other people may be more religious and spiritual than others, and thus more likely to see alien life as part of God’s creation or plan or worse, perceive aliens as demons created by Satan.
Study by Douglas Vakoch and his colleagues at METI International surveyed people from 24 countries about their attitudes toward alien contact. They found that most people were optimistic and interested in communicating with extraterrestrials, and that they expected positive outcomes from such an encounter. They also found that people’s cultural values, religious beliefs, and personality traits influenced their views on alien contact.
Studies suggest that humans are ready to accept alien life, as long as it is not hostile or threatening to us. However, this does not mean that we would not face any challenges or difficulties in dealing with such a discovery.
We would have to cope with the implications of finding life that is radically different from ours, such as how it evolved, what it is made of, how it communicates, and what it values. We would also have to deal with the ethical and moral issues of interacting with alien life, such as whether we should try to contact it, study it, protect it, or leave it alone.
Moreover, we would have to deal with the social and psychological effects of finding alien life on ourselves and our society, such as how it would affect our sense of identity, meaning, purpose, and belonging. We would have to confront our own biases, prejudices, and fears of the unknown and the different.
Based on the current research, it seems that humans are generally open-minded and curious about the possibility of ETI, and that such a discovery would have positive effects on our worldview, values, and behavior.
However, there are also many factors that can influence how humans would respond to specific scenarios of contact with ETI, such as their level of similarity or difference with us, the context and nature of the contact, their individual differences in personality, attitudes