Elven Psychology

(Note that the following notes on elven psychology apply only to True. The Immanent share most of the same psychological traits as humans, as the changes they underwent during the sundering aligned their traits much more along human lines.)

Elven psychology differs markedly from that of humans in several important ways. While elves raised in close proximity to humans may not be greatly conscious of these differences, they have a profound effect on the way in which elves process their experiences. The main differences exist in three basic thought processes- that of perception, that of creativity, and that of memory.

Elves do not naturally generalize experiences the way that humans do. They experience their surroundings as a constant flow of discrete, individual sensory inputs. An elf walking through a forest does not process it as being "surrounded by trees", they process it as being surrounded by a split oak there, a pine there, two firs to the left of him (one of which has its bark stripped), and a sapling of indeterminate species. When a human is asked the day after about his surroundings, he'll first recollect it as a general "forest", and only upon effort be able to name specific trees he passed, whereas the elf will first recall the specifics and only with effort be able to consciously generalize it into "a forest".

This is the main reason behind the famed elven perceptiveness- they don't filter out background sensory "noise" the way that humans do. As such, they're much faster to pick up on subtle sounds, objects out of place, and other little details that a human would gloss over as irrelevant. Natural elven perceptions don't prioritize such details as irrelevant, so they stand out in much sharper relief. Without the specific mental disciplines taught by the Elven Creeds, elves have very little ability to generalize sensory perceptions, resulting in difficulty learning complex behaviors or drawing abstracted conclusions. The "wild elves" of the Isles who have abandoned the Creeds show evidence of this, as they're noticeably less capable than humans of sophisticated thought or advanced learning behavior.

Creativity is another way in which elves tend to differ from humans. Humans, as a species, are overwhelmingly creative. New ideas boil up constantly from a ceaseless process of generalization and association-making. Humans get so many strange and randomly-sorted ideas that even when they sleep, these visions batter in on them in the form of dreams. Elves, on the other hand, do not have this constant stream of novelty impinging on their awareness. The only associations they make are those they consciously form. Indeed, whereas human children are a perpetual font of wild ideas undisciplined by experience, elven children struggle to connect two or more disparate concepts. It is elven elders who are most often capable of the sort of connections and associations that demonstrate creativity.

Memory for elves differs drastically as a product of their perceptions. Whereas humans tend to generalize their memories, filling in the blanks with archetypes and patches of other experience, elves remember things exactly as they were… until they stop remembering it entirely. A human shown a lot of eight wagons and then later asked what they looked like will tend to "fill in the blanks" on elements he doesn't recall, his memory providing him with plausible details that he may well believe were actually seen. An elf, on the other hand, will tend to either perfectly recall what each wagon looked like or else draw a complete blank on it. Each perception is understood as a complete gestalt, without the smudging or reconstruction that humans use.

This doesn't mean that elves have perfect recall, only that what they do recall, they recall perfectly. The nightly meditations of the elves focus on preserving and refreshing their important memories, and a great deal of trivia gets left to fall away. Individual parts of memories may be dropped as irrelevant, or might fade due to neglect. Indeed, the phenomenon of Drift is intimately connected to the loss of memories. The more important and meaningful memories that an elf has to preserve, the more likely that he's eventually going to drop a stitch in his nightly meditations and lose something critical. If he has enough other memories relying on that one, it can result in a cascade failure that won't be noticed until he tries to access lost memories. His entire past can vanish out from under him and he won't realize it until it's too late. By the time he's aware that his past is gone, all he can do is make a new life for himself.

These anomalies of elven psychology tend to be most pronounced in elven-socialized characters. Those raised in close proximity to human society, as most elves are, show less obvious difference from their human neighbors. Indeed, they may not even be consciously aware of the ways in which they differ from their human comrades. They show most obviously in those small elven villages that have little outside contact, or in elders who are approaching the limits of their ability to hold together a coherent past.

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