Orwellian and Stalinesque Revision

From: Darling, Andrea (ALD295@psy.soton.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 24 1996 - 16:32:48 BST

What are Orwellian and Stalinesque Revision?

Orwellian and Stalinesque revision are two different ways of explaining
a phenomenon of human (and animal?) consciousness. This is a phenomenon
which occurs many times in everyday life. I will use an example of
walking down the road and seeing a cat on a fence (yes, it sounds
silly!). Suppose you see this cat and it is white with brown eyes.
Earlier on in the day a white spotty dog with brown eyes had run in
front front of your car, you dodged...fortunatley for the dog. Later on
a friend questions you about your day and you tell them you saw a white
cat with black spots. How did this happen? the cat was white with brown
eyes!!! An Orwellian revision account would state that you percieved
the cat as white, yet the memory of the spotted dog had interfered with
this memory and you had recalled incorrectly. A Stalinesque account
would propose that you had inaccuratley percieved the cat at the time
of seeing it, (in a way you hallucinated the spots) and so you
remembered incorrectly, (it really did have spots in your
consciousness). The problem with the Orwellian revision account is that
of timing. Were you first conscious of a white cat with no spots,(you
remembered this) and then later conscious of a white cat with spots
which wiped out the first experience) or was the very first thing you
were conscious of was a spotty cat? The problem with Stalinesque is WHY
we hallucinate the spots.
Overall, do we make a mistake on recall due to interference (Orwellian)
or do we accurately recall a perceptual mistake we actually
experienced? (Stalinesque)

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