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The Model of Mental Relativity

by Melanie Anne Phillips


What is Self Awarenss? Where does it come from? And how does it work? Many attempts have been made to answer these questions by a variety of means ranging from philosophic conjectures and religious perspectives to medical investigations and neural network computer programs. Mental Relativity seeks to answer them through a mathematic model of the mind.

This model originated in the development of a new theory of story called Dramatica. A central concept of the Dramatica theory states that "every complete story represents a model of a single human mind trying to deal with an inequity." That is a rather bold statement and merits some supporting arguments.

According to Dramatica, stories exist to allow us an external, more objective view of our own mental processes so that we might better understand how to make beneficial decisions in particular life situations. They do this by creating a Story Mind that may have different attitudes than our own, but functionally operates in the same manner.

This Story Mind, then, is not the mind of the author, audience, or any of the characters, but exists in an intangible manner as the relationship among dramatic Appreciations. Appreciations are simply the foundational building blocks of a story with the specifics stripped away such as the story's goal, or the Main Character's motivation. Even before an author determines what the goal is or what drives the Main Character, the conceptual notion exists that there must be some kind of goal and that the Main Character will indeed be driven by something.

The Appreciations then represent fundamental conceptual or experiential qualities that all human beings are inherantly capable of embracing. The underlying deep structure of stories represents a model of how these essential human Appreciations relate, thereby creating a model of the mind itself. The progression of acts and scenes (which we shall later see is not linear at all, but follows a helical pattern) describes the mechanism by which the mind progresses from one structural mind set to the next, or in a sense, from one experience to another.

How would such a thing as a Story Mind come in to being? Surely the earliest storytellers didn't consciously set out to create a model of the mind! True. But subconsciously that is exactly what they did. The simplest form of storytelling deals with the tale. A tale is just a series of events that arrives at a conclusion. As long as the chain is unbroken and makes sense both logically and emotionally, an audience will stay with it. The conclusion puts it all in perspective and determines whether that particular series of events was a good one or a bad one to follow. A tale, therefore, constitutes a statement.

In contrast, a story is an argument. Rather than seeking to prove something is simply good or bad in and of itself, a story is out to prove that a particular approach is better or worse than all other appropriate responses which might be tried. A story is therefore a much more powerful communicative tool, for rather than convincing an audience to act in a particular way in a specific situation, it seeks to cause them to act in a particular way in all such similar circumstances.

If that argument is incomplete, it will not be accepted. The author must prove that his or her approach is better or worse by comparing to all other appropriate approaches before the story is done. Now, when stories were first developing as a a means of communication, they were a verbal medium. When the story was done, the author was right there to fill in any holes the audience might bring up - What about THIS alternative? Oh, well in that case, such and such, which is why the Main Character still couldn't have done anything else.

As stories were retold, an author (and others who retold the story) would naturally include these additional arguments as part of the story in order to make a stronger case and avoid criticism. Over time, all holes would be plugged, and the story's very structure would account for all the different ways anyone might look at that particular issue. In effect, then, the structure of the story formed a model of all of the perspectives anyone might reasonably and emotionally take in trying to come to terms with an inequity. And, quite simply, a model of the mind's problem solving processes was created without anyone ever intentionally setting out to do so.

By making a list of all the dramataic Appreciations which recur in all complete stories regardless of genre, we arrive at something of a Periodic Table of Mental Elements that has been cut apart and jumbled up in a sack. Until we can reassemble them into a pattern based on their relationships, we have little hope of understanding the way they work together to create more complex "chemical compounds" in the mind. Once this framework has been created, however, a simple, symetrical, and elegant model of the mind emerges that is not only descriptive of self-awareness, but predictive of psychology.

There are two ways to approach describing the structural part of this structrual/dynamic model. We might start at the top with the largest family relationships and then sub-divide our way down until we arrive at the Elements themselves. Another approach would be to begin by studying the underlying principals which form the families in the first place, then set about reconstructing the framework in which the Elements are held. The dilemma is that each approach requires a separate argument, yet the case for the accuracy of the model cannot be fully stated until both arguments are made.

The first approach is like learning about the families of elements in a chemistry class. The second approach is more like studying quantum mechanics. For the past six years, the Dramatica theory has thouroughly explored the first approach, documenting the Periodic Table of Mental Elements and describing how authors might use it to create the chemistry of story. Precious little has been published, however, regarding the underlying principles by which the Table operates, or even how it came to be constructed. These considerations are the realm of Mental Relativity, and are our purpose here.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

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