San Diego Comic Con 2015

San Diego Comic Con

The 2015 San Diego Comic Con schedule is out and I'm honored to join 3 panels this year! Along with some cool people, I'll be exploring the evolution of geeks, debating the most controversial topics in pop culture, and celebrating the psychology of Star Trek and Star Wars. Check out the details below.  

The Geek Shall Inherit: A Look at the Evolution of Geek Culture at San Diego Comic Con

The Geek Shall Inherit: A Look at the Evolution of Geek Culture
Saturday July 11, 2015 6:00pm - 7:00pm Room 14A

Geek culture has become mainstream, but it wasn't always that way. Comic conventions have boomed in popularity, the cosplay community is thriving, and TCG tournaments are breaking attendance records. Dr. Billy San Juan (The Walking Dead Psychology, Magic: the Gathering judge), Jenna Busch (host/founder of Legion of Leia, Star Wars Psychology), Dr. Travis Langley (Game of Thrones Psychology, Doctor Who Psychology), Alan Kistler (Doctor Who: A History, The Walking Dead Psychology), Dr. Janina Scarlet (Superhero Therapy,Star Wars Psychology), Dr. Ali Mattu (The Psych Show, Super Fantastic Nerd Hour), Josué Cardona (Geek Therapy, The Walking Dead Psychology), Tim Shields (Cascade Games), and Matt Munson (The Project Workbench) explore the evolution of our beloved culture.

Geek Wars at San Diego Comic Con

Geek Wars: The Nerds Awaken
Saturday July 11, 2015 6:00pm - 7:00pm Room 14A

Professional nerds square off in an epic trivia battle for the ages, all while discussing the hottest pop culture topics, including racial stereotyping, objectification, online bullying, casting decisions, and more. Spanning comics, TV, film, and the web, this discussion will be hilarious, outrageous, and challenge your perspective on culture. Moderated by Tony B Kim (Crazy 4 Comic Con), this super-powered team will be joined by Chris Gore (comedian), Amy Ratcliffe (writer), Andre Meadows (comedian), Ivy Doom Kitty (pro cosplayer), Sam Maggs (writer), and Ali Mattu (clinical psychologist).

Psychology of Star Trek VS. Star Wars: Episode V at San Diego Comic Con

Psychology of Star Trek VS. Star Wars: Episode V
Saturday July 11, 2015 7:30pm - 8:30pm Room 24ABC

Geeky psychologists Dr. Andrea Letamendi (The Arkham Sessions) and Dr. Ali Mattu (The Psych Show) step into the pop culture ring to debate the psychology of teamwork, rebellion, and galactic war. Panelists include Robert Meyer Burnett (Free Enterprise), Thom Zahler (Love and Capes), Consetta Parker (Rancho Obi-Wan), and Amy Ratcliffe (Star Wars Insider). Join a side, but remember: phasers and lightsabers are no match for this battle of wits! Refereed by Brian Ward (Comics, Assembled!).


5 Reasons Why Jocks & Geeks Are Really the Same People

2013_Superbowl_xlvii.jpeg

Tomorrow's Super Bowl has me thinking a lot about jocks and geeks. We see both in opposition to each other - strong versus weak, stupid versus smart, cool versus awkward. These stereotypes often lead to fear and hate. As a freshman in high school, I have a vivid memory of a football player mocking me while I read a magazine about Star Trek at a bookstore. I was angry and wanted to do something to change my geeky image (this was before I was "out" as a geek). I joined the wrestling team to prove that I too could be a jock. The experience wasn't what I expected. It taught me that jocks and geeks aren't really that different. In fact, they share almost all of the same qualities.

Here are 5 facts about jocks and geeks that show how similar they really are.

1) Loving Data

Moneyball  is a movie about how data is a part of sports.

Moneyball is a movie about how data is a part of sports.

The definition of a geek is someone who has "an eccentric devotion to a particular interest". Usually these interests are non-mainstream like computers, video games, comic books, science fiction, and fantasy. Geeks devote extensive time to understanding every detail about their interests. For example, knowing all the plots from Batman comics, constantly optimizing computers just for the fun of it, and engaging in intellectual debates about who would win in a fight - Kirk or Han Solo?

Jocks get ragged on for being dumb, but the reality is many love information just as much as geeks do. Whether as an athlete or a fan, jocks consume statistics about sports. Knowing batting averages, net yards per passing attempt, and rebounds per game are key to understanding baseball, football, and basketball. Jocks also love knowing all the details of an athlete's career, understanding the rise and fall of a team, and engaging in hypothetical crossovers debates (e.g. who would win in a match - the 1994 San Francisco 49ers or the 1976 Oakland Raiders?). 

2) Engaging in Fantasy

community-dungeons-dragons.jpg

Geeks and jocks enjoy pretending to be a part of the worlds they love. Geeks do this through role-playing games (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons) while jocks play fantasy football (or baseball, hockey, etc). But it's simpler than that - young kids might wrap a blanket around their neck and pretend to be Superman flying around their home or make believe that they've just hit a home run in the World Series. The point is that when both groups let their minds wander, they tend to imagine being right next to their favorite characters and athletes.

3) Playing Dress Up

Left image by Doug Penner via Getty Images; Right image by  Rizwane . 

Left image by Doug Penner via Getty Images; Right image by Rizwane

Probably because of #2, geeks and jocks often dress up. Geeks call this cosplay while jocks just call this game day. Cosplay can be as simple as wearing a Captain America t-shirt or as elaborate as creating a Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess from scratch. Similarly, on game day jocks might wear a jersey of their favorite team or completely paint their bodies in their team's colors. Both serve the same function - publicly showing your devotion to something that means a lot to you. 

4) Getting Together

New York Comic Con is one of my favorite places to meet geeks.
New York Comic Con is one of my favorite places to meet geeks.

Contrary to popular belief, geeks are very social people. We love getting together at comic-book stores, movie screenings, and conventions. Jocks do the exact same thing, though it's usually at sports bars, Super Bowl parties, and tailgates. Whenever you go to these events, whether geek or jock, you can immediately connect with someone you've never met before and dive right into a detailed conversation about something you both feel passionate about. That's a really cool (and incredibly rare) experience.    

5) Becoming Pop Culture

Image by  drsethery  .

Image by drsethery.

Both geeky and jockey things have transcended their niches and become pop culture. Just look at the data - sports and geeky films continue to dominate TV ratings and the box office. Tomorrow's Super Bowl will be one of the most watched events on TV. If you look at the top 5 movies of 2012 (Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, Skyfall, The Hobbit), all but one came from geeky origins. This isn't a contemporary phenomenon; it's a pattern that's existed for a long time. Going back to the 1960s, half of the most watched televised events were Super Bowls. Adjusted for inflation, the second movie of all time is Star Wars (#1 is Gone with the Wind). It turns out that most people enjoy consuming geeky and jockey things (though in a more casual, less intense way).

Why Don’t Geeks and Jocks Get Along?

Movies like   Mean Girls   highlight the ingroup bias in high school cliques.

Movies like Mean Girls highlight the ingroup bias in high school cliques.

If geeks and jocks are so similar, why is there so much opposition between the groups? The psychology of ingroup/outgroup bias provides a simple explanation - people consistently prefer their group to others. Even when psychologists randomly assign individuals to groups for no reason at all, people will really like the group they are in and dislike outside groups. This finding is stronger when you belong to a group you believe to be less powerful than others (lots of geeks think they are smaller in number compared to jocks while jocks might see their team as an underdog compared to their competition). For many geeks and jocks, our identity is strongly linked to our groups and we react very strongly when we think our group is being attacked by others. This gets back to the self-serving bias (a theme within social psychology), which helps us feel better about our ourselves and the identities we belong to.

Joining the wrestling team forced me to face my own ingroup/outgroup bias and helped me realize how many of my stereotypes about jocks just weren't true. Honoring our similarities, rather than focusing on our differences, not only helps geeks and jocks get along, but all groups of people who believe they are in opposition to each other.