It's the ultimate geek debate: "Star Trek" or "Star Wars"? Or, perhaps even more essential: Spock or Yoda?
In a physical confrontation, it would probably be tough for Spock to contend with Yoda's force-wielding powers, provided Yoda could avoid a Vulcan nerve pinch. But what makes these two characters so iconic is not so much their physical prowess as their brilliant minds. Yoda is a Jedi Grandmaster, with 900 years worth of grammatically awkward wisdom at his disposal. Spock, on the other hand, is a wizard of logic, with powers of reasoning unfettered by emotional biases.
Who would win, then, in a battle of wits?
The debate, it turns out, might already be over. Scientists have weighed in (with an actual study!) that settles, once and for all, which of these fictional oracles employs the wisest philosophy.
A team of psychologists, led by Igor Grossmann from the University of Waterloo, pulled together the results from six separate studies that looked at how the emotions influence reasoning processes. They wanted to determine how a concept known as "emodiversity" — the ability to experience a rich mixture of balanced emotional states — might alter how reasoned decisions are made.
"With our new study, we wanted to test how the presence and balance of multiple emotions at the same time influence one's ability for wise reasoning," explained Grossmann in a news release.
Overall, the experiments involved some 3,678 participants across four years of research. While none of the study subjects were either Vulcan or members of ... whatever species Yoda happens to be ... these two fictional characters nevertheless are known for their differing methodologies. Spock believes in negating emotions so that his reasoning powers are unbridled, while Yoda preaches finding balance, and he regularly consults with his intuitions and emotions when making decisions.
This was basically the distinction that the study was comparing, and it wasn't lost on the researchers.
As with most things, balance is the key
"What unites both the grand master of the Jedi Order and the first officer of the Starship Enterprise are their critical acumen, their ability to reason through complex situations, and their selfless willingness to forego personal interests for the common good," the team explained, in their very serious research paper. "At the same time, these two icons differ fundamentally in their attitudes toward emotions."
While you might think that scientists would be biased toward Spock, given that his emotion-suppressing methodology seems to fit more congruently with the scientific method, that's not how the results panned out. Subjects who performed the best on the study's "wise reasoning" metric were consistently those who expressed a balanced set of emotional states, as opposed to suppressed emotions or unbalanced emotional states.
In other words, the science sides with Yoda, and it's not even close.
"It seems that wise reasoning does not align with uniform emotional down-regulation, as portrayed by Spock. Rather, wise reasoning accompanies one's ability to recognize and balance a wide range of emotions, as portrayed by Yoda," said Grossmann, definitively.
And so, the great debate has been resolved. Don't rub it in too hard, though, "Star Wars" fanatics. Trekkies might need some time for this one to settle in.
Heed the Grandmaster's advice: "You will know good from bad when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack."