For the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I wanted to write about the franchise's relentless optimism. But my article grew to become much more than that. It became my love letter to Star Trek, what it taught me about psychology, and why we need it now more than ever. Here's an excerpt:
What was so brilliantly subversive about Star Trek was that it gave people a way to talk about social issues that they might otherwise avoid bringing up. We rarely speak up about politics when we believe that others don’t share our perspective. And when we do get pulled into politically heated discussions (think about your last awkward family dinner), the conversations mostly don’t go anywhere.
Psychology can help explain why this is. When we hear ideas that conflict with our beliefs, our minds fight that information in the same way our immune systems attack a virus. We’re wired to preserve the lens through which we view the world. This is why most conversations about politics don’t change our mind, but only strengthen our preexisting beliefs.
Star Trek, however, manages to bypass its audience’s political defenses because it presents real-world conflicts in ways that we find less threatening. Even today, bringing up the Vietnam War can be polarizing in conversation. But a story about the Federation and Klingons arming opposing tribes on the planet Neural (“A Private Little War”)? That sparks a real discussion, not a shouting match of partisan politics.
Read the full article at Quartz for more.