Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Psychological insights in Star Wars

Star Warsw is interesting for its many basic psychological insights. Consider e.g.:

  1. The mismatch of ability and maturity in Ani (the later Darth Vaderw) and how his frustration at being held back by people who were inferior in ability (but, at least sometimes, superior in maturity) contributed to his fall.

    A similar set of problems, frustrations, and mis-developments (although rarely of such an extreme kind) is common among intellectually gifted. Cf. e.g. some parts of this discussion of education. Notably, it can be highly problematic to exceed ones age-peers in some regards while, at the same time, being inferior to those older in other regards. The result is a person who is not really home in any group. Obviously, this mismatch appears more often where intelligence is involved, rather than midichloriansw.

    Similarly, great ability in any area can cause arrogance, over-confidence, and even be detrimental when it occurs at a too low level of maturity or without the right environment.

  2. Yodaw’s mantra: Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. Again a contributor to Ani’s fall—and a central key to understanding human behaviour:

    Fear of loss, hurt, missing an opportunity, being attacked (not necessarily physically), having a foe or even a non-ally, etc., are among the most common motivators. Consequences include not merely “ordinary” anger, but also reciprocal (even pre-emptive) rejection, hostility, vicious circles of growing mutual dislike, and a number of other phenomena. Conversely, someone who can still these fears in others or, better yet, turn them into the opposite, is almost guaranteed a friendship.

    The following steps (anger, hate, suffering) are equally true, but do not reach the enormous importance of fear.

  3. The pretentious self-opinion of the not-too-bright C-3POw, contrasted with the (as far as I can tell—he is a bit hard to read...) more humble actual competence of R2-D2w. So in real life: Incompetents very often think too much of themselves; competents tend to be more humble. Using C-3PO as a golden mirror for oneself is not a bad idea—possibly, competence and self-estimate do not quite match. A very interesting study on stupidity and self-deception (PDF)e can be an eye-opener for those who are not already aware of the problem.


    Does this not apply to me too? Possibly, but you might be surprised at the self-doubts I have, how frustrated I am at my own limitations, how often I have cursed my stupidity in doing this or that mistake, ... My complaints about humanity come less from an all-seeing Odin, and more from a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. The empty eye-socket can cause a fleeting similarity, but that is all there is.

  4. Similarly, C-3PO can, when viewed too casually or from a too naive POV, give the impression of being the more competent: As with real-life, those who are eloquent, claim to be competent, or wear a shiny suit, are often considered more competent than those who are taciturn, humble, and more unremarkably dressed—irrespective of the actual competence levels.

  5. The concept of the Dark Sidew; how following a dark path can lead to faster, but more shallow progress; and how it can be a great temptation.

  6. How the top positions in politics are often filled with intriguers; and how even the Jedi Councilw is not entirely impervious, with Qui-Gon Jinw’s failure to play along keeping him of the council.

    This is not only something very true for the real world, but something that has been much of a stumble block for me, personally, in the past.

Other items include the danger and prevalence of pride, side-effects of separation from or loss of loved ones, and the danger of too large personal sacrifices. Even the “Jedi mind-tricks” are not that far from reality: As demonstrated by advertizing, propaganda, some NLP-methods (admittedly not all of indisputable effectiveness), and the command style of some managers, merely making a statement with sufficient self-confidence, conviction, and authority “can have a strong influence on the weak-minded”—even without having access to the force. (Which is not to say that the effect is even close to being as strong.)