I guess I should start off by introducing what I'm doing here.
Well, A Handful of Bullet Shells is a bit psychological, and I figured that people might be interested in the more detailed aspects of it. This is the first post (out of many I hope) that will explain a detail of the psychology involved in the story.
First a disclaimer: I am not a professional. I'm not even a Psychology major. I took Psychology in high school and then in college, that is the extent of my knowledge. I will be quoting my textbook at times (because that's where I'm getting the bulk of my basic information) and those quotes are the only reliable and correct pieces of information that will be in these posts. Anything else is liable to be wrong. Especially since this is psychology as it pertains to a world of fiction. I am making a great deal of assumptions on a) how a virtual reality would interact with the human brain and b) how it could have long term effects.
So basically, don't cite me in a paper or argument. I am less reliable than Wikipedia. :D
Okay, background first. I'm working off the theory that people create models of their environment in their brains. This theory is presented as the most recent and supported theory in my text, Introductory Psychology (copyright 2006, because year is a little important). If it's total BS, well, I didn't come up with it. :D
This theory states that people make decisions using a model of the environment that their brain creates. Their decisions are not actually created using the environment itself. To create the model, the brain gathers raw information about their surroundings and the brain makes assumptions or categorizes this information.
The virtual reality, in my story, sends the raw information to the player's brain. (How I can't explain. That would be something beyond my knowledge of technology and biology.) The brain is then able to make assumptions and categorize the information on its own.
Now comes the important bit; how could this have long term effects on your brain? Why is spending too much time in the virtual reality a bad thing?
I'll expand on this idea a little more in a later post where I explain an event in the next update but here's my general idea. When the brain makes assumptions about the information that it gathers, it processes that information in five different ways, "attention, localization, recognition, abstraction, and consistency"(149). Consistency and recognition are the two main elements that the virtual reality can mess up.
Recognition is the ability to correctly identify an object. Spending too much time in a virtual reality can add new "objects" to your brain's list of possibilities. Consistency is your brain's way of assuming details because, "the perceptual system must maintain certain features of objects" (149). Basically you know that your door is rectangular, so even when you look at your door from an angle that makes it seem like another shape, your brain still "knows" that it's rectangular. (Example from my text, paraphrased.)
Here's an example:
You glance over and see long blonde hair, and the back of a long green dress. Hey! It's the Mystical Elf.
No... wait... you have to remind your brain that the Mystical Elf is not real. That's just a girl who happens to have two key features of the elf. Your brain picked up the two features and "recognized" the elf because you've been spending too much time in a clearing with her.
But then, WAIT! What if you didn't pay the figure any attention beyond the hair and the dress. You saw them and looked away, the Mystical Elf isn't that interesting.
Well now your brain is assuming that the girl over there has blue skin because it processed her as the Mystical Elf.