On the Shelf: Review of Star Wars Psychology by Travis Langley

Last October, I had the privelege to go to the Los Angeles Comic Con/Comikaze/Stan Lee’s Comic Con with Hannah and Goody. Rarely do I ever see something from a vendor that I make a note to get, but I actually got to meet Dr. Travis Langley, the editor of Star Wars Psychology (#SWpsych) and I was stoked as soon as I saw the volume on that table. Langley has also edited books on the psychology of Star Trek, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Batman and Captain America vs. Iron Man, nonfiction fiction that’s going straight on my TBR. Travis Langley edited the book, but there are other psychologists, authors, professors, and even film score composers who have contributed with their own wisdom. Langley himself has authored several of the chapters as well.

I am a real nut for psychology. The subject just fascinates me (probably because I’m a writer) but I went straight to the table like a magnet because the words “Star Wars” and “psychology” go brilliantly well together in my mind.

I got Star Wars Psychology for Christmas and got started on it right away.



First of all, this book was amazing. I loved it every inch of the way. Why? Well, I was reading about Star Wars while learning about psychology at the same time. Is there anything better than that? (A lot of things, probably, but you know what I mean.) I also got to delve deeper into the arcs, differences, and functions of each main character and the role they play in the universe of Star Wars. I honestly think this book would be a great science course in education for those Star Wars fans of little attention span.

One of the main things I found absolutely fascinating was reading about the things the Jedi had to exercise in order to master the force: Psychological flexibility and commitment therapy. Apparently commitment therapy is an actual thing that psychologists give their clients who are suffering depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Commitment therapy focuses on these six skills that are very similar to those that the Jedi teach: mindfulness (paying attention to the moment), acceptance (connecting with experiences a person has), self-as-context (focusing on non-attachment), defusion (separating oneself from one’s thoughts), values, and commitment to actions, giving examples from the movies and tying them to actual psychology research.

Another thing that really stood out to me was how Darth Vader’s brain had to change and adapt when his limbs were, erm, detached, with a map for the visual learner’s convenience. I also learned about 1) the relationship between organic living entities (people) and robots or droids, 2) the role of droids in the Star Wars universe, 3) how masculinity was one of the main factors that led Anakin to become Darth Vader, 4) Leia’s psychology as the heroine and how it impacted female audiences, and (in particular) 5) how John Williams’s music brought the Star Wars movies to a whole different level, emotionally and psychologically.

For some reason, the Star Wars film score chapter was at the very end of the book. This fabulous and enlightening section was written by psychologist Jim Davies and film score composer Joe Kraemer (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Somewhere, Dawn Patrol). One of the things I learned from this section that stood out the most was how the style and scale of notes in each song impacted the listener’s psychological reactions. For example, in the Star Wars main title, the notes on the scale constantly reach up, higher and higher, which invokes in the listener a hopeful, happy feeling. Songs that go from low to high indicate an “increasing goodness” and songs that go low or have a minor downwards scale do the opposite. It is SO INTERESTING. I was totally and gloriously enthralled. (Save the best for last, eh?)


Anyhow, I don’t want to give you a whole info dump about what I learned in the book BECAUSE why then would you get the book to read if I told you everything? I give this book a 5 star with no hesitation and I absolutely recommend it, if you’re not a fan of psychology and just want Star Wars, or if you’re a psychology nut who is (for some strange reason) not into Star Wars. If you like both, however, well, what are you waiting for???

Have you ever read any of Travis Langley’s books? Have I piqued your interest in Star Wars Psychology? Comments appreciated. As always, thanks for reading!


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