Through the film, our hero has to come to believe this is true, and then ..... Great
book that I'll recommend I read last summer is, Trust Me, I'm. Lying. I don't have ...
Hello everybody, and welcome to Episode 212 of The Psych Files. We're going to talk about The Matrix, the movie. I wanted to give you some thoughts that I've had about it. Obviously I'm a big fan of it. Lots of people are. A very well-known movie. Since I'm recording this just after the holidays, The Matrix movie was shown I don't know how many times. I think what they do, the channels, they bring out this movie whenever there’s another big movie coming out. They hope to lure you in to watch The Matrix again and the commercials let you know about other big movies coming up. If you are unfamiliar with this movie, I don't want to go into a major lengthy description of the plot, but basically, it came out in 1999. Keanu Reeves is the big name in it. Laurence Fishburne was in it. A number of other well-known character actors. Kind of science fiction-y and really pretty cool. What I wanted to talk about was the connection that I see to psychology. The movie has plenty of connections to philosophy and so there are books in Amazon that you can get about the philosophical connections. I wanted to drive up obviously some of the psychological ones. Very briefly then, the summary of the plot. You got this ordinary guy, except for the fact that he's Keanu Reeves and extraordinarily handsome, but okay, so he's an ordinary guy. He works in … the movie opens, what is he? He works in a cubicle. I think he's a computer programmer. He's in a cubicle. He seems to work for a large organization and so wearing boring clothes. Regular guy. Then he gets this message from this mysterious person telling him to do things, and this person seems to know what's going to happen. As the movie unfolds, that mysterious person was a character named Morpheus played by Laurence Fishburne. We learn that Fishburne explains that the real world has been taken over by computers. They've created this virtual world that you see around you, but it's not real. Actually everybody's body is being used by the computer like batteries. Everybody is in pods in an induced kind of coma. The world that you see is what people actually think they're living in, but they're not. They're really in an enclosed pod, if you will, and the computers are controlling what people see and experience. Through the film, our hero has to come to believe this is true, and then he has to fight the bad computers. That's the short version. If you haven't seen it, rent it nor buy it. It's worth buying on DVD. Why is this movie so popular? I think there are number of really good reasons. First though, I think we should get out of the way some of the obvious reasons why it's popular. It's popular because it has a lot of
! elements that popular movies have. It has beautiful people. Attractive types. Carrie-Anne Moss is in it as well. They're wearing this, they've got black, at least, of course, she does, skin-type black suit of some kind and they've got the sunglasses that were very popular. They probably sold a lot of those sunglasses when the movie came out. The black coats. A very cool look. The music is quite good. You've got to listen to that. After you've seen it a couple times, you'll say, "Oh, this is really neat music." Neat special effects that are very impressive. The whole bullet time thing that was developed for the movie and it's since been made fun of a million times, but it's pretty cool effect to watch. It has all the other elements. Violence. Plenty of guns. There's love. There's this positive feel-good ending. There's a little bit of stuff that's disgusting and gory, which a lot of people like. Even without any allusions to psychology or cool concepts, the movie is pretty neat for those reasons alone. However, there are a lot of references made during the movie that seem to resonate with people. I want to bring some of them out. I have to tell you, I wanted to see what some of the critics said about the movie. I really liked one thing that Leonard Maltin said in one of his books, he said, "The Matrix has a very high MJQ, which is Mumbo Jumbo Quotient." There's a lot of stuff that sounds really cool, pretty heavy. A lot of talk about the "one" that our main character is the "one" everybody is looking for. The "one" who will be able to break through and defeat the computer. One of the first fun and neat, very brief scenes in the movie and Facebook member Esther reminded me of this, so thank you Esther. That little scene, if you've seen the movie then you'll be able to identify with all of this. It's a scene where Neo, that's our hero's name, I think he sees a cat move in the same place twice and so Trinity, his girlfriend eventually, says "That deja vu is a glitch in The Matrix." It's some kind of glitch. It's like, "Oh, yeah." Everybody's had deja vu. We've all experienced it. You're not sure why. It seems weird. It seems kind of a heavy thing. Something wild going on. No one can explain it. It's fleeting. Maybe it's a glitch in The Matrix. The idea of a Matrix or that the world you see in front of you is not the world that's really there, that's a neat idea for example, but it has ties. People have always wondered about the world in front of us. How much of what you see is real. I've got a couple of things to address about that, but I just wanted to address this deja vu thing, because there has been, I hate to be the party pooper or maybe I do like to be the party pooper. I
! started looking into it. I've been collecting a couple of articles about it. I'm curious about it too. I hadn't really read them until this came along when I said, "Oh, you know, I've got to go back." There is an explanation for your deja vu experience. A really nice blog post that summarizes it. Art Markham, and he's posting in the Psychology Today, "What is Deja Vu?" Nicely explained. Basically, he summarizes a little bit of research that was done in 2009 in which they showed subjects some pictures of different buildings, cars, all kinds of stuff like that. Then they said later on they would show you some new pictures and ask you if they had seen any of these before. As you can imagine, deja vu is a tough thing to try to research. You never know when it's going to happen. We can't wait for you to have a deja vu experience and then do a study right in that moment. This is how they studied it and I think there's a lot of validity of what they find. Show you a bunch of pictures, boats, cars, buildings, neighborhoods. That sort of thing. Then later on, show you some other pictures. Some of which didn't look at all like the previous ones. None of them were exactly the same, but others had a similarity in the way that the objects in the picture were laid out. Let me see if I can quote here. "Some of the new scenes had a similar configuration to ones that had been studied earlier, but all the objects were different. For example, during the first phase of the experiment, people might have seen an alley between a fence and a building. Later, they might have seen an alley between a train station and a train. In this case, people often felt the new scene was familiar. There's something familiar about it. The participants often reported a strong feeling that they had seen this scene before." Here's how this is explained. Quote again: "If you're in a place that has some unfamiliar objects, but they are set up similarly to a situation you've been in before, you get this what they call, 'a feeling of knowing.' You won't actually retrieve any specific memory for the place. That feeling of familiarity is quite helpful. If you walk into a new restaurant, but it's configured like many other restaurants you know you've visited in the past, then it's good for you to feel like you're in a familiar place. Your knowledge about restaurants will help you figure out what to do next."
It's part of your brain’s tendency to try to simplify all of the incoming information. We talked about "chunking" in terms of memory before. Everything can't be new every time you go into it and so you have, we talked about it, I actually called it or referred to it as [eschema 00:10:52]. You have this sense of what restaurants are. You've learned it through experience. You know what to expect. There's going to be tables. There's a certain protocol. You come in. You probably wait for the
! hostess. You look around to see if someone's going to sit you. You sit at the table and there's certain things there. In a restaurant there's usually a bar. There's lights. There's things that you expect to see. This helps you to put those things aside, to not really pay much attention to them, and pay attention to rather the immediately need which is, "Where are we going to sit?" You've got this layout, this sense of the scene. "If the configuration," continuing the quote, "is nearly identical," so if you go into a place that's nearly identical in configuration to one that you've experienced before, "then you may get a powerful feeling of knowing. That is you may get a sensation of deja vu. In the end though, the experience of deja vu is just an extreme reaction that your memory uses to tell you you're in a familiar situation." I want to thank someone who was particularly helpful in helping me find some of this research. That is Annette Taylor, PhD. Professor of Psychological Sciences, University of San Diego. She led me to that article. Also, she was the editor of a great book, called The Encyclopedia of Human Memory. That's available on Amazon. It's kind of a big book, but it's meant more for institutions, high schools, colleges. If you have students who are really into memory, you might want to look into picking up that book. There's lots of other neat topics. I mean, lots of topics discussed. Things like absent-mindedness, heuristics, cognitive maps, change blindness, more on this feeling of knowing effect. A popular topic called, flash bulb memories. This book goes into a lot of topics. Even brings in chocolate. If you're interested in memory, The Encyclopedia of Human Memory. That was edited by Annette Taylor. The scientific explanation for deja vu makes a whole lot of sense. Not nearly as fun, however, as a glitch in The Matrix, but there you go. Hopefully that's interesting. Something for you to chew on. Another member of the Facebook group, Gene Giest, I interviewed him a while back, he teaches teachers. He's sort of an educational psychologist. He pointed out the other connection. I don't know if I'm going to go so far into because I'm not as familiar with it, which is some of the work of Joseph Campbell. If you've heard of him, he talked a lot about myths. Let me give you a quote from Gene in the Facebook group. If you want to join the Facebook group, you probably could just Google Facebook and The Psych Files, or just go to my web page: www.thepsychfiles.com and there's a link there, a button there, top right, to the Facebook group.
! Anyway, a quote from Gene: "There are definite themes that pervade these movies without most of us really realizing it. Whether these are linked to the collective unconscious, that's a concept borrowed from Young, people see a lot of Young, Maslow, and Freud in The Matrix. Collective unconscious is this idea the human race has these memories that we all share. That is why some things seem to resonate with everyone. There are ideas in The Matrix that we see in other movies. They seem to just keep popping up all over the place, which is what Joseph Campbell talked about as well. Let me finish this quote here by Gene. "We do have shared symbology that seems to act on an unconscious level. This is an interesting quote. I heard this too. Maybe that's why Star Wars resonates so much even 40 years later. The movie never seems to get dated. The themes are universal and the symbols speak to our psyche. He recommends another movie called, Room 237, which I have not seen. I'm going to have to go see that and maybe a future episode on that one. Maybe ask Gene to talk about it. There's a lot of themes in the movie that just seem right. One of those is what Joseph Campbell refers to as The Hero's Journey. What Campbell found, was that across cultures, there seems to be this similarity in a lot of the stories that we tell ourselves. What we find is that in these stories, movies, or whatever, plays, the main character seems to always go through these same stages. The stages are that the character starts out, the play, the movie, starts out, life is normal, everything is the way you and I recognize it to be. Just like Neo was sitting at his desk, ordinary guy, and then something happens. Some weird thing happens. In this case, of course, it would be this disorientation. Something new, you don't know what's going on. Morpheus talks to Neo, says the world isn't quite what it is. You start to see weird things or Neo did. Things that don't seem to be explained. Everything is kind of weird. Then our hero has a challenge facing him. He or she must do something in order to bring life back to normal again.
There's a challenge. Maybe in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, he's on the planet, he's kind of bored, he wants something more. There has to be something more. We all have that same feeling too, that there's got to be something more to life than this. The Matrix taps into that and a lot of major movies tap into this feeling that, boy, and I think it's sort of like a wish that there is just something more, some purpose to life. Campbell talked about bliss and things like that. Very popular ideas that we tap into. Obviously lots of people tap into. A lot of motivational speakers tap into that. A lot of people will tell you to follow your bliss and it seems so right. I do want to talk about that in another episode.
! Anyway, here you've got our hero. Things are turned upside down and he feels like there's something he has to do. He has to go and face some big challenge of the enemy usually in the movies and doesn't want to . There's a period of, "I'm not sure what I should do. Should I take the blue pill or the red pill?" The blue pill represents the decision to face the world as it really is and go up against the enemy. He does face the enemy as Luke faced Darth Vader. The enemy is defeated and life returns to normal. That is a theme heard in so many movies. It seems almost like you've seen that kind of movie before and you have. Interesting idea about the collective unconscious. I ask myself after watching the movie, "Are there are any examples of the world around us not really being what it is?" Several episodes back I talked about the so-called “filter bubble” and I think this is an example of how we might be moving into a world in which what we see is very carefully selected for us to see. The filter bubble idea is that when you search for information online or even when you’re on just about any social media site like facebook for example, so much is known about you from your previous activity online that only certain things are shown to you. These are things that the search engine or advertisers think will be of interest to you. You probably won’t see news stories or products that you’re not interested. In a way that’s good but in another way you’re living in a bubble: a world that is being specially created for you. Now that’s a matrix-like idea. Are there other examples of there being an unreal world around you? I was in the store the other day. You look at magazines. Hopefully all of you have seen the videos and the pictures that show you how famous stars who are unusually attractive anyway, being photo-shopped into an even more unrealistically perfect version of themselves. We are surrounded by unrealistic images of men and women to the point that we think we ought to look that way. That's something in our world that's unreal. The other things I think about are the news. The news has gone from being just simply a statement of factual events that happened in the world today, to opinions and discussions and arguments. Lots of TV news stations are trying to create, not just to disseminate news, but to comment on it and to do so in such a way as to give the viewers what they want to be ... how do I say this? This is kind of complicated. They want to create a view of the world that fits the way they think. I think this is true of conservative and liberal news stations. It's unfortunate that we have that sort of thing. In my day, the news was Walter Cronkite. He just told you what was going on. That was it. It was about a half hour long. Now the news seems
! to have an underlying agenda of just picking out only specific things for you to see, showing those things, giving you their perspective on those things, and trying to create a reality to get you to buy into that's not the real one.
! It's very hard these days to know what is really going on. That's my connection to The Matrix. If there's anything I think is real, it's that there are, I don't think we're in a virtual world, a computer world, but there are certainly forces that would like us to believe that the world is like this, when it's really not. Great book that I'll recommend I read last summer is, Trust Me, I'm Lying. I don't have the author in front of me, but go check this out. Really neat book that shows you how the modern news media can be manipulated into presenting stories in a certain way, to bringing news forward that really isn't news. A fascinating book, Trust Me, I'm Lying. Go get it. You'll really enjoy it.
! Unfortunately, a lot pseudo-scientific and self-help books have really grabbed the idea. The first example of who taps into this idea as well, would be the Law of Attraction people. Those who follow The Secret. The idea there is if you concentrate on things, if you wish things, if you think about the world differently, the world will become differently. Very attractive thought. Of course psychologists have no confidence in the secret. Is it important to think differently? Absolutely, but it's just not that easy to do. Psychologists talk about, "Yes, let's help people to think differently, particularly, let's say, those who are depressed, demotivated. If we listen to them and how they explain the world, we find that they do tend to have very self-defeating thoughts. This idea goes back to Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, Martin Seligman. Broadly referred to as cognitive restructuring, cognitive behavioral therapy. All of this sounds pretty dull, right? Nothing is as interesting as the wild ideas in the movie. We can get you to think differently if we get you to pay attention to what you're saying to yourself and compare that to whether or not it's edible or realistic. Then get you to coach yourself. To listen, to compare, to think about whether or not what you're saying to yourself has any validity. Is it outrageous? Is it impossible? In other words, if you say to yourself, "I'm not good at this. I'm terrible. I stink." If you have this thought pattern which affects not only one specific thing, you do
! poorly at one thing and then you start globalizing that to other things, then you may be creating a reality around you which is not so good and which you can change. You just can't change it instantly. When I first saw this movie, it was a little bit inspiring. It made me think about, "Can I change? What parts of my world can I change if I were to just think differently?" The problem is, the "just." That is it doesn't happen quickly. If only it would. I think change is hard and change takes time.
I think that is where I'm going to leave this. This has been kind of fun for me. Not only because it was fun to watch the movie and give it a certain spin to look at it from different perspectives. I think the two powerful ideas, to sum up, are this collective unconsciousness thing that Young talked about, The Hero's Journey. These are all part of The Matrix and they really resonate with us. At the very end, Neo sees the world for what it really is. It's bits and bytes. If we suddenly change the way we think, can we change our world? We can change our world, but it's not going to happen overnight. That's my opinion. I hope you enjoyed this. Come to the website: www.thepsychfiles.com. Check out the apps that are in Google and the iTunes app store. Just come to the website and you'll see links to the apps for Psychology News. For students who are studying psychology, there's Psych Test Hero. Come by and check them out. Okay, thanks a lot. See you next time on The Psych Files. Bye now.