Invasion of the Body Snatchers vs Capgras Syndrome

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is a movie that is based in the city of San Francisco, California where alien plant spores have fallen from space and grown into large seed pods. These large seed pods are capable of producing a twin replacement copy of each human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of the “sleeping” person they replaced. However, these pods lack basic human emotions. The movie follows a health inspector and his colleague as they uncover and try to stop the alien invasion that is taking over their city.

Imagine this in your reality. How would anyone be able to trust their loved ones? Personally, I would be keeping a closer look at everyone in my life trying to detect if they were a duplicate or not.

For some this is a reality, in their minds at least. Capgras syndrome is an unusual delusional disorder in which the person with the disorder believes that someone they know has been replaced by a double (Barlow & Durand 2009). They can “recognize a loved one’s face, but with no feeling of familiarity.” (Reisberg, 30) A Capgras patient experiences damage in the temporal lobe of their brain, particularly on the right side of their head. This damage is speculated to cause a disruption in the amygdala’s circuits. The amgydala is known to help detect whether a stimuli is a possible threat or danger, or if a stimuli is safe. The effects of the damage to the amgydala leaves people with Capgras syndrome without the sense of warmth or goodness when they are looking at a familiar loved one’s face. The lack of emotions is a possibility as to why these loved one’s faces don’t feel familiar to the Capgras patient and therefore leads them to believe that their loved one has been replaced by an imposter.

At this point in my post you’re probably thinking how Capgras Syndrome relates to Invasion of the Body Snatchers? While watching this Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I immediately thought of Capgras Syndrome. Matthew Bennell is the health inspector in the movie and on his journey to stopping this alien invasion he has to go to people that he trusts for help. Sometimes he had to inquiry whether the ones closest to him were taken by the aliens or if they were still themselves. To me, this reminded me of a Capgras patient and how when they look at people who before were seen as safe and with love are now seen as replacements or “aliens” like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Matthew Bennell would be diagnosed with Capgras Syndrome because he sees his loved ones as imposters.

I believe that the movie Invasions of the Body Snatchers was a wild idea before its time. Even though the focus of the movie wasn’t about Capgras Syndrome it provided a great example from pop culture into the scientific nature of Cognitive Psychology. The only thing that I couldn’t quite relate the movie to with Capgras was the therapies and treatments that go into making the patient see that the familiar face is their actual loved one.