The Psychology of Spock: Past, Present, and Future

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I recently caught up with a Trekkie friend of mine. He's a psychiatrist and I'm a psychologist, so of course we did a deep dive into the psyche of the latest film — Star Trek Into Darkness. Our conversation kept coming back to Spock.

"He's the most important character in the Star Trek universe," Dr. T said. "Spock has wielded more influence on the alpha quadrant than anyone else."

I never thought about Spock like that before, but Dr. T was right—he is the only character who's made an appearance in every era of Star Trek including The Original Series, The Next Generation, and J.J. Abrams’s new parallel universe.

"Why is Spock such an enduring character?" I asked. "What makes him so unique?"

Dr. T and I spent the rest of the night trying to understand Spock. After a small detour debating who would win an “Amok Time” fight — Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto, we eventually decided that Spock's teaches us that the things that make us different, strange, and weird are the same things that make us awesome.

This is not only an expansion on my conversation with Dr. T., but an attempt to summarize 47 years of canon and 2 parallel universes into 1 comprehensive conceptualization of a character. I present to you the psychology of Spock — past, present, and future.

"Spock's Brain"

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Who we are is the result of our biology, psychology, and experiences. So let's start our conceptualization of Spock by exploring his unique biology.

Spock is half human and half Vulcan. While we can't begin to imagine how the biology of an interspecies human would work, we can extrapolate based on what we've seen in Star Trek and know about science.

  • Spock is genetically diverse, making him more adaptive to new environments and less susceptible to genetic diseases (like his father's dementia).
  • Since Vulcans evolved in a harsher environment, Spock is stronger than humans. 
  • Vulcans are touch telepaths, giving Spock the ability to share thoughts through a mind-meld.
  • Vulcans experience powerful emotions, making Spock more vulnerable to very intense feelings.

The last point is key to understanding Spock's psychology. Here's how Spock's father describes Vulcan emotions in 2009’s Star Trek:

Sarek: "Emotions run deep within our race. In many ways more deeply than in humans. Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience. The control of feelings so that they do not control you."

Since Spock has a nervous system that experiences powerful emotions (I.E. a very fast limbic system), he can make decisions very quickly. What about his human biology? The following conversation from Star Trek: Enterprise helps us understand the difference between humans and Vulcans:

Soval: We don't know what to do about Humans. Of all the species we've made contact with, yours is the only one we can't define. You have the arrogance of Andorians, the stubborn pride of Tellarites. One moment, you're as driven by your emotions as Klingons, and the next, you confound us by suddenly embracing logic.
Forrest: I'm sure those qualities are found in every species.
Soval: Not in such confusing abundance.

We humans are very flexible in our thinking — which explains why we can be so erratic and unpredictable. This is due to our prefrontal cortex, the region that coordinates our thoughts and decides what to do. It's also the area responsible for regulating our feelings. Because humans can entertain many different ideas at once, sometimes we’re logical while at other times we’re deeply emotional.

This is why Spock’s brain is so unique — he's got the flexibility of a human mind combined with the strength of Vulcan emotions. Yes, his human side might make it more difficult for him to control his Vulcan feelings, but the integration of the two gives him the opportunity to quickly think in very creative ways.

"A Child of Two Worlds"

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The central psychological experience of Spock's childhood is growing up in a bicultural home. Not only is he a minority on Vulcan, he might be the only human/Vulcan child ON THE WHOLE PLANET!

The major challenge for bicultural children is to integrate their two cultures. People who are able to do this usually feel proud about being unique. Others find their cultures to be in conflict with each other and feel pressure to choose one over another. Psychologists call this the Bicultural Identity Integration construct. Kids who are able to integrate their cultures become very good at cultural frame-switching — being able to think, act, and feel like a human on Earth and a Vulcan on Vulcan. Kids who can't integrate their cultures don't have this flexibility and have more rigid personalities. 

This is one of the reasons I love 2009's Star Trek so much—Spock's struggle to figure out his identity is beautifully portrayed. In a pivotal scene, a group of Vulcan boys bully Spock for being half human and push him hoping it will make him mad. Since showing strong emotions is a big taboo in Vulcan culture, this situation created a lot of anxiety for Spock because he was afraid of confirming a stereotype (that he can’t control his emotions). That’s stereotype threat in action—anytime we worry about fulfilling a stereotype we usually preform worse. In Spock's case, stereotype threat contributed to him losing his cool and beating the crap out of a kid (who totally deserved it by the way).

Situations like that caused a lot of identity conflict for Spock. Look closely at the conversations he had with his father and mother after the fight:

Spock: You suggest that I should be completely Vulcan…?
Sarek: …Spock, you are fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is: which path will you choose? This is something only you can decide.
Spock: Should I choose to complete the Vulcan discipline of Kolinahr and purge all emotion, I trust you will not feel it reflects judgment on you.
Amanda: Oh, Spock. As always, whatever you choose to be, you will have a proud mother.

In both conversations we can feel the tension between Spock's Vulcan and human identities. It's clear that Spock was questioning who he is and who he wanted to become (“Should I complete Kolinahr?”). Rather than guiding Spock down one path or another, both of his parents encouraged him to make his own decisions. By allowing him to independently explore his identity they increased the chances of Spock integrating both cultures. This type of parenting is a core component in resilience — the psychological factor that keeps kids healthy despite chronic stressors (like constant discrimination for being a “green-blooded hobgoblin”).

"I Choose Not to Feel"

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One of the key changes in the new Star Trek parallel universe is the destruction of Vulcan. Not only did Zachary Quinto’s Spock witness this trauma firsthand, he also lost his mother in the process.

After this terrorist attack, the Spock of the present was overwhelmed by powerful emotions. In response to his sadness and rage, Spock’s primary strategy became numbing himself to his feelings. After James Kirk ridiculed Spock for "feeling nothing" (another stereotype threat, “Vulcans have no emotions”), Spock attacked Kirk. After almost killing Kirk, Spock gave up his command of the Enterprise because he was "emotionally compromised".

Trying to numb powerful feelings and having uncontrollable emotional outbursts are common experiences after trauma. What becomes problematic is if such patterns continue long after a trauma has passed. This is exactly what happened to Spock in Star Trek Into Darkness. The events of Into Darkness take place about a year after the destruction of Vulcan. In the comic prequel, we learned that Spock has insomnia, nightmares about his mom and Vulcan’s destruction, and bursts of rage. In the film, it's very clear that Spock's trauma is impacting his relationship with Uhura. This exchange captured exactly how Spock has changed:

Uhura: At that Volcano you didn't give a thought to us, what it would do to me if you died, Spock. You didn't feel anything, you didn't care.
Spock: Your suggestion that I do not care about dying is incorrect. A sentient being's optimal chance at maximizing their utility is a long and prosperous life…It is true that I chose not to feel anything upon realizing that my own life was ending. As [REDACTED] was dying I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing — anger, confusion, loneliness, fear. I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed. Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again. Nayota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well I assure you the truth is precisely the opposite.

The Spock of the present meets all major criteria for PTSD — re-experiencing traumatic events, avoiding situations, and becoming very sensitive to certain feelings. This isn't the resilient child we discussed earlier— this Spock is emotionally stuck, much like soldiers and veterans returning from service with PTSD. But this is not the man Spock is destined to be. 

"Cowboy Diplomacy"

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The Spock of the future (the one played by Leonard Nimoy) isn’t emotionally stuck, he’s incredibly flexible. Unlike most Vulcans, this Spock rejected Kolinahr, deciding to pursue logic and emotions. He integrated both of his cultures, switching his perspective as needed depending upon the situation he’s in. He understood conflicting points of view, making him highly empathic and open-minded. That's why he was so good at negotiating peace between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets as well as the Vulcan High Command and Romulan Empire. Captain Picard even compared Spock's tactics to "cowboy diplomacy," an emotional comparison never made of any other Vulcan. When you think about his unique biology, bicultural youth, and supportive parents, it's easy to see how Future Spock came to be. 

What does this mean for the Spock of the present, the one who’s struggling so deeply with his emotions? Individuals experiencing PTSD can go down many different paths. While Zachary Quinto's Spock will never turn out exactly like Leonard Nimoy's (one experienced significant trauma, the other didn’t), Present Spock can learn to overcome his trauma and grow from the experience.

Post-traumatic growth is the positive change that happens to a person as a result of their struggle with a trauma. Trauma doesn't cause a person to grow, it's about the decisions a person makes as a result of their trauma. Many people who experience post-traumatic growth describe feeling changed by their traumatic experiences, feel more connected to others, become more resilient against crises, or have a greater appreciation for life (think Captain Picard in “Tapestry”). Growth doesn't mean people don't suffer; pain is a part of the process. Growth cannot happen until you to learn how to face difficult emotions and talk about the things going on in your head.

This is the challenge for Present Spockto overcome his emotional demons. I won't give anything away, but based on what happens at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, we're already beginning to see signs of growth in Spock (and a lot of it has to do with his friendship with Kirk—his new source of resiliency). 

A Reflection of Us

Ali Mattu Spock

Why is Spock such an enduring character? He is a reflection of who we are

Each of us has at one time or another felt different, strange, and out of place. As a child, Spock didn't completely fit in among Vulcans or humans. Yet he goes on to become the most influential officer in Starfleet. Growing up as a bicultural kid, I looked to Spock to give me hope that I too could overcome my “culture clash” and find confidence in myself.

The current Spock honors our experience of living in a world where we are constantly exposed to traumatic events (real or televised). While I’ve been fortunate not to be immediately impacted by a terrorist attack or natural disaster, I responded to the tragic death of my brother by avoiding my feelings. Watching Spock struggle with the loss of his mother in a similar way made me feel less crazy. 

Spock’s future reminds us that our differences are our strengths. That’s the ultimate lesson from the psychology of Spockif we can find a way to embrace all aspects of ourselves and approach life with an open mind, we are capable of great things.


March 5th, 2015 Update: Today on THE PSYCH SHOW I remember the life of Leonard Nimoy and celebrate the psychology of Spock.


The Top 10 Science Fiction Moments of 2012

Yesterday, I wrote about why we love end of year retrospective lists. Today, I want to give you my rundown of the 10 best science fiction moments of 2012. I'm not ranking 2012's best scifi movies or TV shows (io9 and Tor already did a good job of that). Rather, I am ranking moments from 2012 that were important to fans of science fiction.

10. The Walking Dead strikes back

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Great writing, acting, social commentary, and special effects make Walking Dead one of the best shows on TV. But 2011's 2nd season wasn't that good. Fans were worried about season 3, especially after hearing that executive producer Frank Darabont left the show. Not only has season 3 been awesome so far, but it also has provided some of the most memorable moments of the entire show.   

9. IMAX endures

I'm a huge fan of the IMAX format (real IMAX, not the fake stuff) and find it much more engrossing than 3D.

This year was a big one for the format with several movies optimized for the giant screen (Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man, Titanic 3D, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and one partially filmed in native IMAX (The Dark Knight Rises).   

Next year promises more films optimized for IMAX (Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and at least two partially filmed in the format (Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).

Seeing the Dark Knight Rises in the native IMAX format was an awesome experience. Source: DC Comics/Warner Brothers Pictures. 

Seeing the Dark Knight Rises in the native IMAX format was an awesome experience. Source: DC Comics/Warner Brothers Pictures. 

8. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the ultimate fanboy

Neil deGrasse Tyson is about as geeky as you can get. As an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in the American Museum of Natural History, Tyson is one of the nation's foremost authorities on space, an eloquent ambassador for science (watch "The Most Astounding Fact"), and a passionate advocate for NASA (see "We Stopped Dreaming").

He's also a major Trekkie. This past year, Tyson had two standout moments - proclaiming the U.S.S. Enterprise as the champion of the 2012 Comic-Con Starship Smackdown (see below) and dedicating an entire episode of his hit internet show to the science of Star Trek (in which he revealed that his sideburns are an homage to Star Trek).  

7. Dystopian novels are cool again

Dystopias are a staple of science fiction, though it's been awhile since a new dystopian story captured the public's attention. Thanks to critical acclaim, word of mouth, social commentary on our obsession with reality TV, and an excellent film adaptation, this was the year Hunger Games returned dystopias to the bestseller list. Hopefully, the success of Hunger Games will bring about a renewed interest in other dystopian classics

6. TNG gets a facelift

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, CBS launched a complete HD restoration of the show for blu-ray. This meant scanning the film negatives, repairing damaged film, updating special effects, remastering sound, and recording new interviews and behind the scenes specials. The first two seasons are out and the results are spectacular! The remastering has ensured that TNG will live on long into the 21st century.

5. Space jumping becomes a reality

Space Jumping from 2009's Star Trek
Space Jumping from 2009's Star Trek

One of the coolest scenes from 2009's Star Trek became a reality on October 14th, 2012 when Felix Baumgartner jumped out of a capsule at the edge of space, broke the sound barrier, and safety returned to Earth. Science fiction to science fact in 3 years - that's pretty cool.

4. The cybernetic age begins

At the 2012 London Olympics, Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to participate in the games (he had previously competed in the Paralympic games). His participation sparked a global debate on the role of biological augmentation in our society.

This year also marked the first case of a cybernetic hate crime when Steve Mann was physically assaulted in a French McDonalds for having a "digital eye glass". 

Both of these cases, along with the growing sophistication of robotic implants marked the beginning of the cybernetic age.

Photo by  Erik van Leeuwen .

Photo by Erik van Leeuwen.

3. Avengers is actually a good movie

Marvel Studios' Avengers was a bold experiment. If you factor in the five separate films that were produced in parallel between 2008 - 2011 to setup the Avengers, this was one of the biggest and most expensive films in history.

I was afraid Avengers would be a flop. The first footage didn't look promising, Hulk never worked on the big screen, I didn't think Tony Stark/Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. could play nice with the other heroes, and Loki didn't seem like a big enough villain for the movie. Why did I care? If Avengers failed, there was a good chance Marvel and other studios would become far more risk-averse in their productions of superhero films.

I was completely wrong. Avengers worked on all levels (well...nearly all, see the “Honest Trailer” below), was critically acclaimed, and made a ton of money. Not only has Marvel Studios announced 4 new movies which will lead to Avengers 2 in 2015, the studio is taking their "cinematic universe" into the very geeky galactic realm of Marvel Comics - a far more ambitious and bold move than Avengers Part 1. 

2. NASA does a lot of cool stuff

NASA did a lot to capture the public's attention this year.

First, the space agency sent its space shuttles into retirement with style by orchestrating flyovers above Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles.

Next, Harold White reiterated that the agency is looking into wrap drive technology for interstellar space travel at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, though the science remains purely speculative at this point.

Finally, NASA's most advanced Mars rover, the Curiosity, landed on August 6, 2012 at 1:32 a.m. EDT. The landing was the most complicated in NASA history and was ripped from the pages of science fiction, utilizing the largest and strongest supersonic parachute ever created and a combination of sky crane tethers and rockets to lower the rover to the surface. Curiosity has already made some interesting discoveries and is on its way to Gale Crater near the Martian equator to determine if the area had the right conditions to support life.

My favorite part of Curiosity? This photo below featuring NASA's "Mohawk Guy".

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1. Star Wars is coming back

The best scifi moment of the year was also the biggest entertainment news of the year - Disney buys Lucasfilm and announces new Star Wars movies beginning with Star Wars Episode VII in 2015.

Yes, it's a little strange picking a corporate acquisition as my number one pick. But, Star Wars is the biggest science fiction franchise EVER, the original trilogy influenced generations of artists and scientists, and if you look at the subtext behind George Lucas' exit interviews, it seems like he's truly stepping away from creative control of the new movies suggesting that this upcoming trilogy might finally give us a fresh take on the universe.

That's my list for 2012. What do you think? What did I miss or get wrong?

Science Fiction and the Search for Gratitude on Thanksgiving

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I only have one rule for this blog - reference one finding from psychology and one work of science fiction in every post. 

When I sat down to write a Thanksgiving article, it was easy to quote research on gratitude. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky calls gratitude a "metastrategy for achieving happiness". Experimental research has revealed that participants who were asked to count their blessing once a week for ten weeks felt more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, had better health, exercised more, and reported fewer headaches, acne, coughing, and nausea than control groups. Collectively, research indicates that gratitude helps you:

  1. appreciate life's joys 
  2. increase self-esteem 
  3. cope under extreme stress 
  4. nurture resilience in the face of loss and trauma 
  5. foster altruism 
  6. build social relationships 
  7. undo negative emotions 
  8. combat hedonic adaptation

It doesn't take much either - practicing gratitude just once a week leads to improved physical and mental health. You can write in a journal, share your thoughts with a loved one, write letters (even if they aren't sent), make gratitude calls, or a bunch of other things. Giving thanks is really, really, really good for you! 

So that's the psychology part of the post - easy as pie.

It was a lot harder to write about Thanksgiving in science fiction. I couldn't think of any science fiction story that directly relates to gratitude (Back to the Future was a contender), turkeys, Native Americans (I considered Chakotay episodes from Star Trek: Voyager), or pilgrims (Scott Pilgrim unfortunately doesn't count).  

A Google search for "science fiction Thanksgiving" led me to a fun scifi Thanksgiving grace by John Scalzi. Here's a sample: 

We also thank you for once again not allowing our technology to gain sentience, to launch our own missiles at us, to send a robot back in time to kill the mother of the human resistance, to enslave us all, and finally to use our bodies as batteries. That doesn't even make sense from an energy-management point of view, Lord, and you'd think the robots would know that. But in your wisdom, you haven't made it an issue yet, so thank you.

I loved the humor, but it didn’t help me crack this story. 

Then I thought about the Buzz Lightyear balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade…that did nothing but kill time.  

Buzz Lightyear in the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

Buzz Lightyear in the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

I had the idea of writing about all the science fiction films I'm grateful for this year (Hunger Games, Avengers, Looper), but then I couldn't stop thinking about how disappointed I was with Prometheus

Ultimately, I was inspired by this clip from last week’s Saturday Night Live:

SNL reminded me that Thanksgiving isn't just about gratitude and food, it's also about being stuck at home with your family. Then I knew immediately what episode to write about - Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Family".

The episode takes place right after the U.S.S. Enterprise stops a Borg invasion. The crew is stuck in Earth orbit while the ship is being repaired. Captain Picard decides to visit his estranged brother, Worf gets an unexpected (and unwanted) visit from his adopted parents, and Wesley watches a message his deceased father made for him shortly before he died.

Everything about Thanksgiving is captured here. The dread of being stuck in uncomfortable situations (Worf: "I am not looking forward to this…I wish they would come so it would begin and end sooner."), realizing that you have changed while your home has not (Picard: "Everything is exactly as I remember it. The house, hills, every tree, every bush seems untouched by the passage of time."), and reminders of those who are no longer with you (Dr. Crusher: "Jack recorded a holographic message for Wesley just after he was born. It was a gift for him when he grew up. Jack was going to make many more of them - he never had the chance."). 

The episode isn't just about the mess of families (though there is plenty of that), it's about the dialectics of them. Dialectical thinking refers to understanding ideas through relationships (e.g. we know light because of dark, up because of down). It’s about searching for what is being left out and honoring the wisdom in two opposing perspectives. So often strong feelings associated with the holidays get us stuck on one side of a dialectic ("it's going to be awkward, boring, and sad"). Yes, being with your family is awkward and it's also comforting. You might be bored as well as excited about your family's holiday traditions. Reflecting on relatives you have lost is sad while it also reminds you of the joy they brought to your life.

Ultimately, the characters in this episode are able to experience gratitude once they embrace their family's dialectics. For Picard, it's a matter of understanding the disagreement and similarity between him and his brother (see the clip below). Worf must integrate the distance and closeness he feels for his parents. Wesley balances the sadness and admiration he has for his father. 

You can probably find similar dialectics in your own family (I feel a lot like Worf this time of year). Embracing the mess of our families, both the good and bad, will not only help us enjoy our Thanksgiving, but it will also increase the chance of experiencing gratitude for the time we have with our loved ones today.

Growing Up Trekkie - How Star Trek Made Me Fall in Love with Psychology

I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and spend most of my days working in a hospital treating anxiety and depression. As a child, I never thought I'd be in this position. Back then, I spent most of my time riding bikes and playing video games. While other kids dreamed about who they would become when they grew up, I was content just thinking about the next great Nintendo game. My dad feared I might not graduate high school, let alone college. I was okay with that.

March 13, 1988: That’s me on the left playing Atari with my brother.

March 13, 1988: That’s me on the left playing Atari with my brother.

All of that changed when my brother took me to see Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I was only eight years old at the time and knew nothing about Star Trek. While the movie's social commentary on the end of the Cold War was way over my head (I was much more fascinated by the exploding spaceships), something about this universe spoke to me. While Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were cool, I couldn’t see myself living in their scary universe. But I wanted to be friends with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and believed it just might be possible for me to serve on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

January 27, 2004: Sharing my story with the director of Star Trek VI, Nicholas Meyer.

January 27, 2004: Sharing my story with the director of Star Trek VI, Nicholas Meyer.

A few days later, my brother and I were channel surfing when we came across an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember him saying, "You really liked that Star Trek movie, maybe you should check out this show." I was a little confused at first - I had no idea there was a Star Trek television show (nor did I realize there were 5 other movies and an original television series). The Next Generation immediately consumed me. I raced home every day from school to watch reruns of the series and anxiously awaited new episodes.

This experience changed my life in a seismic way. Star Trek taught me that by using science, technology, and exploration we could push the human race forward. As I grew up, Star Trek challenged my world views. Episodes such as "Tapestry", "The Inner Light", "Darmok", "The Outcast", and "The First Duty" forced me to reconsider my beliefs on life and death as well as right and wrong. The core Star Trek value of inclusion ("infinite diversity in infinite combinations") became the foundation of my own philosophy.

September 25, 2010: Thanking Patrick Stewart, Star Trek’s Captain
Jean-Luc Picard, for inspiring me to love science. 






  
  
   
  
  

  
  
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September 25, 2010: Thanking Patrick Stewart, Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, for inspiring me to love science.

I didn't know how, but I wanted to pursue similar goals (science and exploration) in my life. Yet, in high school few subjects appealed to me. I enjoyed my science courses, but I didn't feel like biology, chemistry, or physics "spoke" to me like Star Trek did. Eventually, I enrolled in college as an undeclared major. While I told friends and family that I was considering pre-law and pre-med, inside I was lost.

I avoided choosing my first semester freshmen courses as long as possible. It reached a point where most classes were closed. When I did enroll, only introductory psychology was available as an elective. I knew nothing of the subject and enrolled more by default than by interest.

The first lecture by Professor Goesling hit me just as hard as the explosion of Praxis in Star Trek VI. Psychology spoke to me in much the same way as Star Trek did. The integration of hard scientific research and introspection, two elements of all great Star Trek stories, were the foundation of psychology. I saw psychology as a field that could finally answer questions proposed by Star Trek - how do we define life, what makes a person good versus evil, and how can we better humanity? The science of psychology (behaviorism, cognitive science, and neuroscience) had empirical methods for analyzing these questions and a rich literature of experimental answers. Once again, I geeked out and devoured the field by devoting the next decade of my life to earning my bachelors, masters, and doctorate in psychology.

As the internet celebrated the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation and wrote about its legacy and the impact it has had on so many lives, I felt compelled to share my story and start this blog. It is my hope that this blog will inspire the next generation of science fiction geeks to love the brain and behavioral sciences.

Welcome to Brain Knows Better.

October 22, 2012: This model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, hanging in my hospital office, reminds me of the human potential to change and grow.

October 22, 2012: This model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, hanging in my hospital office, reminds me of the human potential to change and grow.