Throughout Westworld’s offseason, the idea of consciousness has been dissected and discussed as it applies to the show’s hosts. The progression towards sentience for the androids, led by Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton), and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), is only expected to gain more steam in the upcoming sophomore season, and this uprising is in large part due to Arnold’s ‘reveries’ programming, which allows the hosts to recall the past.
This ability to remember is the subject of a new article by psychiatrist Harvey Roy Greenberg published in Psychiatric Times. As part of the article, Dr. Greenberg compares the recollection of memories that us humans experience to the artificial way in which the hosts access past information.
Greenberg points out that the main difference between the two lies in the fact that a human’s recollection of past events is accompanied by a myriad of subconscious distortions, something not currently known to also affect hosts’ memories:
“It’s been speculated that [the human] brain processes and archives whatever our senses experience. But the past, even the recent past, is often recalled as through a glass darkly, subject to potent processes of repression, suppression, distortion, etc. The hosts can store memories with crystal clarity…sentience thus precipitates a scarifying identity crisis – it brings total recall of decades of trauma.”
So it seems that the memories the hosts are beginning to recall are crystal clear versions of things that actually happened, a fact that Greenberg argues adds to the desire for retribution. And this argument that untainted memories serve as fuel for revenge may very well be true. After all, if my own recollections of what I learned in Psychology 101 serve me correctly, our subconscious processes like repression and distortion serve, in part, to mentally protect us from some of our more painful memories, something that may help to suppress our desires to act upon our recollections.
But, on the flip side, distortions paired with human emotion can have an opposite effect. Relatively harmless events, when taken in and augmented through the processes of unconscious manipulation and emotional attachment, can suddenly cause feelings like pain and suffering when the distorted memory is recalled. So maybe the ‘potent processes’ that distort and suppress memories in humans actually help just as much to promote the desire for vengeful action?
If you’re in the mood to get lost in the psychology of Westworld, then I’d definitely recommend checking out the entire article. And of course, let us know your (consciously rendered) thoughts!