Star Trek and the Teenage Brain

Star Trek The Original Series's "Spock's Brain"

It’s rare for me to find other people talking about psychology and science fiction on the internet. But today I read an article about Star Trek and the teenage brain from a major news source — NPR.

The article explores some interesting research. Psychologist Laurence Steinberg had teenagers complete a driving task either alone or with their peers. Individually, teenagers drove just as cautiously as adults. But when other teenagers were in the car, teens were twice as risky. 

How do we make sense of this? The teenage brain is still growing and it gains an accelerator before it fully develops a brake (something I discuss in the psychology of Superman). That makes it much more vulnerable to the influence of other people, especially peers.

Here’s an excerpt from the article: 

The prefrontal cortex is our voice of reason. B.J. Casey, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College, likens it to Mr. Spock from Star Trek, coldly calculating a life’s worth of cost-benefit analyses. 

Casey’s analogy doesn’t stop there. To her, Captain Kirk is the limbic system — the emotional center of the brain that’s always on the lookout for threats and rewards. When it spots either, it sends a message to the prefrontal cortex. Because the limbic system can’t make sense of these things on its own. It needs the prefrontal cortex.

Kirk needs Spock.

A logically conclusion, though I’ve always found Leonard “Bones” McCoy to be the emotional one on Star Trek. Kirk is a combination of the two, the ethos to the logos and pathos of Spock and Bones. In other words, Kirk is a fully developed adult brain. 

Check out the full article for more.

Chappie and the Psychology of Artificial Intelligence

Chappie film

Chappie, the new film from Neill Blomkamp (the director of the awesome District 9 and the disappointing Elysium), just came out.  

While it’s getting mixed reviews, the film does explore the psychological implications of true artificial intelligence. The Smithsonian asked me about this and I had a few things to say. Here’s an excerpt: 

A truly self-governing, self-aware being like Chappie would be a departure from anything ever seen before. “In the time since Neanderthals, we haven’t ever really had the potential to work collaboratively with a whole new species that is intelligent,” Mattu says. “If we can overcome barriers to sharing empathy with an artificial life form, then this could lead to an amazing age for humanity.

Check out the full article for much more on the psychology of AI.

Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime, Star Trek (2009)

On February 27th, Leonard Nimoy died at the age of 83.

I was heartbroken. 

He was an actor, director, poet, singer, and photographer.

But we’ll always be remember him as Spock.

Today on THE PSYCH SHOW I remember the life of Leonard Nimoy and celebrate the psychology of Spock.

To learn more about Star Trek’s Spock, check out my full psychological profile of the character's past, present, and future. My cohost and I also dedicated this week's episode of Super Fantastic Nerd Hour to the memory of Leonard Nimoy.

Why Diversity in Media Matters

Star Wars: The Force Awaken's John Boyega, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Orphan Black's Cosima

Oscar nominations are out and we’ve got THE LEAST DIVERSE group of nominees since 1998! 

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn summarized it nicely: 

The nominations are part of a larger problem with how Hollywood works, who gets hired to produce content, and who ends up starring in it. 

The thing I want to talk to you about is why diversity in media matters. Find out how diversity is good for fans, content creators, and the bottom line on this week’s THE PSYCH SHOW.

Back to the Future to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Psychology of Nostalgia

Ali Mattu as Back to the Future's Marty McFly

Nostalgia keeps coming up in science fiction. It was a big part of the success behind Guardians of the Galaxy and is why the original Star Trek series is making a comeback

This year Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are relying on our love of their source material to reboot franchises that have seen better days. 2015 also marks the year we commemorate Back to the Future: Part II's hoverboard vision of the future.

Everything from my childhood is cool again and it’s giving me all the feels!

What’s going on here? What is nostalgia? Why are the 80s making a comeback? And what purpose does nostalgia even serve? Find out on this week’s THE PSYCH SHOW!