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Dec 29, 2004

Charles Tart: Virtual Reality & Altered States of Consciousness

The link between VR and altered states of consciousness is an interesting one. One of the first researchers that have discussed this relationship is Charles Tart. According to Tart, VR can be considered a new technological model of consciousness. In particular, he suggests that "stable patterns, stabilized systems of these internal virtual realities, constitute states of consciousness, our ordinary personality, and multiple personalities"

Of particular interest is Tart's explanation of the feeling of being "present" in a computer-generated world, although in its article he doesn't use the word presence. He suggests that presence emerges from a core psychological pattern which "automatically organizes the rest of experience around itself in a way that further supports the basic pattern". He thinks that this is the same process of perceiving a constellation. A constallation is not "real", because the spatial distribution of visible stars is random. However, once a pattern has organized, it is hard not to perceive it that way.

If you want to read more about Tart's theory of virtual reality, read these online articles:

Multiple Personality, Altered States and Virtual Reality: The World Simulation Process Approach

(This is the published version of the paper, which appeared as "Multiple Personality, Altered States and Virtual Reality: The World Simulation Process Approach" in the journal, "Dissociation," Vol. 3, 222-233)

Mind Embodied! Computer-Generated Virtual Reality as a New, Dualistic-Interactive Model for Transpersonal Psychology

(Based on a speech given at the L. E. Rhine Centenary Conference on Cultivating Consciousness for Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness and Healing, Durham, North Carolina, November 9, 1991. A modified version was later published in K. Rao (Editor), "Cultivating Consciousness: Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness and Healing." Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993. Pp. 123-137.)

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