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Psychology and SETI 2015 : Chapter Proposals for “Psychology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)”


When Nov 15, 2015 - Nov 15, 2015
Where N/A
Submission Deadline Nov 15, 2015
Notification Due Dec 15, 2015
Final Version Due Jun 1, 2016
Categories    psychology   cognitive science   signal processing   pattern recognition

Call For Papers

Chapter proposals are invited for an edited book titled “Psychology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).” To date, only a handful of psychologists have been involved in SETI, which uses radio telescopes to search for signals from advanced technologies circling distant stars. Yet recent scientific discoveries make the existence of life beyond Earth seem increasingly plausible. For example, we now know that almost all stars have planets, and liquid water flows today on the surface of Mars. “Psychology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)” will follow up the October 2015 special issue of “The Psychologist,” the monthly magazine of the British Psychological Society, which focused on the theme “Out of This World” ( For this new book, we seek empirical and theoretical contributions that explore the variety of ways that psychology can inform the search for life beyond Earth. Chapters may focus on psychological contributions to SETI, which searches for evidence of technologically advanced civilizations at interstellar distances, or on the more general scientific field of astrobiology, which includes studies of the habitability of other planets and the search for extraterrestrial microbial life.

Interested authors should send a 400-word abstract, 200-word biography, and sample of a previously published chapter or article to Douglas Vakoch at by November 15, 2015. Proposers will be notified about whether their submissions are accepted for the book by December 15, 2015. For accepted proposals first drafts of full chapters (8,000 – 9,000 words) are due by April 1, 2016, and final versions are due June 1, 2016. Only previously unpublished papers will be considered.

Proposals representing all subfields of psychology are welcome. A sampling of relevant topics includes:

- Surveys of attitudes and beliefs about extraterrestrial life, informed by social psychology.
- Human pattern recognition and signal detection, with applications to SETI signal processing, informed by cognitive and experimental psychology
- Representing our humanity in interstellar messages, informed by personality psychology
- Characteristics of organizations needed to exchange interstellar messages on timescales of centuries or millennia, informed by organizational psychology
- Cross-cultural comparisons of people’s responses to the detection of extraterrestrial life, informed by international psychology
- Challenges of creating intelligible interstellar messages, informed by cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics
- Anticipating the conceptual worlds of extraterrestrial intelligence that relies on sensory modalities different from those emphasized by humans, informed by biological psychology and comparative psychology
- Models of the evolution of extraterrestrial intelligence, informed by evolutionary psychology
- Beliefs about extraterrestrial life that change across the lifespan, informed by developmental psychology
- Security concerns about SETI, informed by military psychology
- Understanding popular perceptions about the alien, informed by media psychology
- Incorporating SETI and astrobiology in psychological courses, informed by teaching of psychology
- Changing views of extraterrestrial life by psychologists, informed by history of psychology
- Understanding the hopes and fears of making contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, informed by social and personality psychology

The above list is not meant to be limiting, but only to suggest the wide range of topics and subfields that are relevant for “Psychology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).” Preference will be given to authors who have already earned a doctorate.

The editor of “Psychology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI),” Douglas Vakoch, is Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His work in SETI was featured in the October 2015 issue of the American Psychological Association’s “Monitor on Psychology” ( Vakoch has edited a dozen books, including “Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence” (SUNY Press, 2011), “Psychology of Space Exploration” (NASA, 2011), “Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery” (Springer, 2013), “Ecopsychology, Phenomenology, and the Environment” (Springer, 2014), “Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication” (NASA, 2014), “Extraterrestrial Altruism: Evolution and Ethics in the Cosmos” (Springer, 2014), and “The Drake Equation: Estimating the Prevalence of Extraterrestrial Life Through the Ages” (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Given that we have no examples of extraterrestrial life to deal with, and no empirical proof that such life even exists, there are significant methodological constraints on applying insights from psychology to SETI and astrobiology. Chapters that highlight these constraints are especially welcome.

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