Hack Your Reality The Virtual Way

Our brains create the world in which we live, both from direct perception and from our memories. One of the most important capacities that we have is the ability to distinguish memories of events that actually happened, as opposed to other thoughts and feelings.

Ann Schlosser, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Washington, thinks she has found a way to hack your internal reality - what you believe you remember - by using virtual reality displays.

She tested how well people used a camera after learning its functions in two different ways: through text and still photos, and through interactive virtual renditions of the camera. She found that virtual experiences did improve the subjects memories of the camera's functions.

However, it also increased "false memories" - more people believed it could do things that it couldn't do. Professor Schlosser states:

"Although object interactivity may improve memory of associations compared to static pictures and text, it may lead to the creation of vivid internally-generated recollections that pose as memories... [emphasis added]

The benefits of learning via virtual experience may come with costs: the ease of generating mental images may create later confusion regarding whether a retrieved mental image was perceived or imagined."

I'm always interested in how modern science is bringing us closer to being able to purchase extra-factual memories, as detailed in Philip K. Dick's 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
"Is an extra-factual memory that convincing?" Quail asked.

"More than the real thing, sir...our analysis of true-mem systems - authentic recollections of major events in a person's life - shows that a variety of details are very quickly lost..."
(Read more about extra-factual memories)

This story is, of course, the basis for the movie Total Recall, starring the governor of California, Arnold Schwartzenegger.

If you're looking forward to extra-factual memories as much as I am, you'll enjoy these stories:

From ScienceDaily.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/6/2006)

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