Master Yoda, are you really so wise?

Everyone knows “Star Wars,” the space-age saga originally produced by George Lucas. And there’s hardly any need to introduce Master Yoda, the small green guru who teaches Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi Knight. In each opus of the saga, Yoda wisely gives his philosophy of life including his theory on emotions and self-control. But how true are these theories? Dr. Nakia Gordon, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, has analyzed selected clips from the films.

“Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”
Humans are made to “search.” Our nervous system incites our need to explore, and exploration promotes new discoveries, rewards, and new reactions. We could argue that without the pre-emptive enthusiasm and excitement that go hand-in-hand with adventure, mankind as a species wouldn’t have made much progress!

“Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.”
Anger, fear and aggression are easily aroused in certain circumstances, but they also have a significant role in our survival, and without them we would die. Of course it is never a good idea to dwell on these feelings or to live in a state of perpetual vengeance, but anger can be useful when it comes to confrontation.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” Technically speaking, we can’t do anything unless we try beforehand, Yoda!

We could also criticize Yoda for advocating a lack of emotions because it is in fact our emotions that help us to make enlightened decisions. Recently, research has shown that people are more likely to make collective decisions when they make a quick decision based on their emotions, rather than thinking about things in a rational way. Denying our emotions, such as anger or enthusiasm, is also denying part of human nature. Unless human nature is exactly what Jedis seek to avoid (making a decision based on emotions), they would be better off remembering that our emotions are a normal and healthy part of human psychology and behavior.
Source: Kyle Hill & Dr. Nakia Gordon, “Was Yoda’s advice any good psychologically?”, May 2014, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/but-not-simpler/2014/05/06/yodas-advice-good-psychologically/#.U86B0OOSw3W

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