Area 51, believed by some to be an alien related private property, is owned by the government and located roughly 70 miles away from Las Vegas. It is popular due to the secrecy surrounding its purpose (Pappas 1). It is closed off to the public and guarded by security 24/7. Area 51 is surrounded by a group of mountains in the middle of the Nevada dessert. People are forbidden to walk anywhere near it, and any sign of their trespassing will have them chased down by guards and arrested (Ugc “Area 51”). Conspiracy theories about area 51 began around the 1950s and are still being contemplated today. Some of these conspiracy theories surrounding area 51 include, that the government is hiding alien beings inside as well as that the moon landing was actually a hoax and it was filmed at area 51.
The extraordinary belief that the government is hiding aliens from Americans began in 1954 with the establishment of area 51 as a secret training and testing site for the U-2 project to advance USSR missions. The secret military base began tests with U-2 (a high-tech American aircraft) in the summer of 1955. Shortly after these tests began, people started to claim they saw UFOs. Specifically, pilots of commercial airlines spotted these flying objects in the Nevada air region and reported them (Blitz 1). People then began to claim a flying saucer (which the U.S government said was a weather balloon at the time) that had crashed in 1947 was actually an alien spacecraft that was then taken to area 51 and reengineered into U-2 (Pappas 3). The government later claimed it was actually a nuclear monitoring balloon. So, should the government be trusted? Because area 51 is so secretive, there is little known information about its use today. People have dedicated years of their life searching for information about area 51 with little success, but there have been CIA reports published on the topic, such as “Developing the U-2,” which was released in 2013. If the government is lying about the existence of aliens, they would be hiding essential information that could lead to a whole new world of knowledge. However, there is no real evidence of the existence of aliens so a conclusion cannot be made of whether they do or do not exist.
Before information about the U-2 project was released to the public, people’s want to believe in aliens lead them to think that extra-terrestrials were visiting Earth. Without the knowledge of what was going on at area 51, confirmation bias, the tendency to search for information that confirms someone’s belief, contributed to the misinterpretation of what U-2 actually was. People also may have misinterpreted evidence due to the circumstances in which they saw these flying objects in. For example, if it was dark and they saw strange flashing lights in the sky, their cues to depth and distance would have been reduced which may have led to seeing ambiguous shapes of ambiguous sizes in the sky. Without important visual cues, it is hard to decipher what is being seen, so the assumption was made that the government was flying Alien spacecrafts. Now, UFOs are very real, but it cannot be assumed that belong to aliens (Van Zandt).
People could also have been misinformed due to social influences surrounding the belief of UFOs. When pilots began to report these UFOs, the media hopped on it immediately. Newspapers all over began to include exciting information about these UFO reports. Also, doctored photos and hoaxes contributed to people’s beliefs as well (Van Zandt). People who believe in extraterrestrials come from all over America and even other countries. Those who believe in the conspiracy theories surrounding area 51 often have trust issues with the U.S. government. Some believe because they want to think there are other forms of life in the world, but others believe due to personal experiences that they have had, such as if they claim they were abducted by aliens (which can usually be explained by sleep paralysis).
Most extraordinary beliefs surrounding area 51 have been proven false by the government, but some people still question whether the government is being completely honest about the purpose of area 51. People who believe or did believe in the conspiracy theories surrounding area 51 likely sustained their beliefs due to the confirmation bias phenomena. The media as well as reduced depth and distance cues and hoaxes could have also contributed to people’s beliefs.
Blitz, Matt. “The Real Story Behind the Myth of Area 51.” Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 25 Apr. 2018, www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a24152/area-
51-history/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019
Pappas, Stephanie. “15 Far-Out Facts About Area 51.” LiveScience, Purch, 13 Nov. 2017,
www.livescience.com/60916-strange-facts-about-area-51.html. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019 Ugc, Mikel. “Area 51.” Atlas Obscura, 12 July 2009, www.atlasobscura.com/places/area-51.
Accessed 26 Mar. 2019
Van Zandt, P. (2019).Perception [PowerPoint slides].