Science Fiction Syllabus

PSY4003 Special Topics in Psychology:
Science Fiction
Professor: Dr. Travis Langley – psychologist, @Superherologist.
Office: McBrien Hall Room 301-F, 230-5222,

Prerequisites: General Psychology; Star Wars.

Fiction can often help us take a hard look at reality and find greater truth than an examination of plain facts. Science fiction, oddly enough, has to be even truer to real life for us to accept its fantastic premises. It also provides analogies that can help us step past our assumptions and existing inclinations to look more deeply into societal issues and basic human nature.

The course uses psychology to look at science fiction, and it uses science fiction to teach psychology. Topics range from throughout psychology—including abnormal, developmental, personality, and social psychology.


read things
Wednesday, February 22
read more things
Wednesday, March 22
Spring Break March 20-24
WonderCon March 29
AURC April, TBA (mandatory)
read the rest of the things
Monday, May 3
(depends on AURC)
cumuluative and okay, maybe read one more thing
May 8 or 10

The schedule and other details in this syllabus may be subject to revision.

QUIZZES ON READINGS (40 pts. total). You will take a number of short quizzes over your assigned readings. There will be no makeup quizzes.

EXAMS (40 pts. total for regular tests + 40 pts. for final) There will be three 20-point tests plus a 40-point final. After I drop the lowest of the three tests, the remaining two will be added together for a total of 40 points. There will be NO makeup tests. Instead of allowing makeup tests, I drop your lowest test score. If you miss a test, then your 0 on that one will be the low score that gets dropped. The 40-point final is mandatory and cannot be dropped.


1/5 quizzes on readings
1/5 best two test scores added together
1/5 final exam
1/5 project (presentation + paper)
1/5 participation

Test questions range in difficulty to get an accurate idea of exactly how much you know and understand about the course material. I do not feel it is right to establish a curve based on the highest grade in the class, in which case only one score would determine everyone’s grade. The scale on each 20‑point test (although bonus credit makes them worth more than 20) is half the scale you see below for 40-point assignments.

The grading scale for each 40-point assignment (e.g., your term project) is this:
F <‑‑ 20.0          D 20.1 ‑ 25.0          C 25.1 ‑ 30.0          B 30.1 ‑ 35.0        A 35.1 ‑‑>  


Required Books
Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind (2015),
edited by T. Langley with foreword by C. Goldman.
Doctor Who Psychology: A Madman with a Box (2016),
edited by T. Langley with foreword by K. Manning.

On Reserve in Library
Psi Fi One: An Anthology of Psychology in Science Fiction (1977),
edited by Melvin, Brodsky, & Fowler (1977).
Introducing Psychology through Science Fiction (1974, 1977),
edited by Katz, Greenberg, & Warrick.


Wookieepedia is a great resource maintained by many volunteers. You may use wikis as tools to find other sources, but always double-check anything you learn there and never cite a wiki because any troublemaker can edit them.

Join the Reddie Comics Studies group on Facebook, where we can share resources, you can help each other, and you might receive suggestions from former students, as well: 


Participation (40 pts.) A participation grade will be based on attendance, appropriate involvement in civil classroom discussions (contributing without monopolizing), and demonstrations that you know your assigned readings. It will weigh more heavily for people who don’t do what they’re supposed to do or maybe for some who participate exceptionally well. Read the things you’re supposed to read, or don’t take this class. Discussions can be fun and interesting if everyone has read the things we’re talking about. Discussions would be painful chores if you haven’t. Anyone who doesn’t want to read much shouldn’t take a course that analyzes fiction.


Be here.
If you’re going to miss class, do not tell me why unless you miss a test or one specific emergency puts you in danger of getting dropped from the class. If you’re not here, you’re not here. Check with other students to find out what you missed.

Analysis (40 pts.): Character or story analysis: Analyze a character or storyline by demonstrating how it illustrates specific psychological concepts, terms, and/or theories. I’ll provide examples. By midterm, you will draft a rough, sketchy, paper about him/her/it/them as analyzed up to that time. At the course’s end, you will turn in an APA style paper presenting your complete character analysis. You will present this paper’s topic at the Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference which is held every spring at Henderson State University.

Quizzes (40 pts. total)

On most classdays, you will answer 1 to 3 questions about required course material or whatever Dr. Langley feels like asking that day.


By the end of the course, the student should be able to . . .
1. Examine themes that are psychologically significant in stories.
2. Describe how fantastic fiction can be used in therapeutic, healing, or educational ways.
3. Describe what psychology says about stories and characters along with what those stories and characters say about psychology.
4. Tender examples of characters that embody different personality attributes and how they may illustrate theories of personality.
5. Describe examples of characters with mental disorders and be able to give examples of how the disorders were presented.
6. Describe what impact these stories can have on stereotyping in the area of culture, gender, ethnicity, criminals, victims, and the mentally ill.
7. Discuss how analysis of fictional characters and situations can enhance our understanding and application of psychology in the real world.


As a learning community of scholars, Henderson State University emphasizes the ethical responsibility of all its members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated. Violations of academic integrity include but are not limited to cheating, plagiarism, or misrepresentation of information in oral or written form. Such violations will be dealt with severely by the instructor, the dean, and the standards committee. Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s idea or writing as if it were your own. If you use someone else’s idea or writing, be sure the source is clearly documented, and when you use someone else’s words, identify that with quotation marks or block quotes. Other guidelines for acceptable student behavior are specified in the university catalog.


If your phone rings or vibrates loudly enough for your professor to hear it during class, every ring is a classroom disruption and can cost you points. If it rings once, make sure it does not ring a second time. Do not text or even look at your phone during class because that is distracting to others. Do not have your phone out at all. If you need to be on your phone that badly, then you need to be somewhere else. If I see or hear your phone during class, you lose points. If you actually use your phone during class, you lose a lot of points.

During tests, your phone and any other items that can contain notes must be OFF and completely OUT OF SIGHT. If your phone, etc., is visible, that will be treated as cheating because too many students use those things to cheat. I do not have to confirm what was on your phone, etc.

You may not use laptops or other electronic devices to type notes during class because that is distracting and because, as you all know, too much students go online during class instead of paying sufficient attention.


Students with disabilities:  Individuals who may need academic accommodation based on the impact of a documentable disability should contact the Disability Resource Center for assistance. For more information, visit the DRC website at

Henderson State University, “The School with a Heart,” offers quality undergraduate and graduate education to a diverse student body.  As Arkansas’s public liberal arts university, we empower each student to excel in a complex and changing world.

All details in this syllabus are subject to correction and other revision.