“Logic is the beginning of wisdom … not the end”: Using Star Trek to Teach Scientific Thinking

  • John N. A. Brown


To paraphrase Batman: “[humans] are a superstitious and cowardly lot”. We cling to our preconceptions against all evidence, literally unable to see the unexpected forest when we find that our field of view is crowded with an unanticipated number of trees. Our preconceptions and other cognitive biases weaken our individual ability to perceive the world around us. Telling fact from fantasy requires cooperation and formal, unintuitive thought. Scientific thinking may be the single greatest intellectual tool ever developed. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a way of proving things true, but a way of proving them false. It is not the work of a singular intellect, but a social activity. It is a method of altering the inherent iterative cycles of bias reinforcement and leaps of faith that we consider intuitive thinking, so that we explicitly define the weaknesses in our own ideas and count on others to help us find the flaws we’ve missed. But how does one teach this unintuitive style of thinking? How do we keep our students from exchanging one set of preconceptions and cognitive shortcuts for another? Personally, I use mental models with which they are already familiar. Personally, I use Star Trek.


Anthropology-Based Computing (ABC) Cognitive biases Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Research methods Scientific thinking Star Trek 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John N. A. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Good and Goodwill UX ResearchFacebook (via Rose)Menlo ParkUSA

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