Travis Langley

Professor of Psychology

We have to open our minds and our methods to new ways of doing things and reaching these students who live in a different world. When they’re walking along staring at their phones, there’s something going on. You don’t just dismiss that. You think what does this person need to hear? What will reach that person? What is interesting and meaningful to them to help them relate?

A photograph of 9-month-old Travis Langley shows him delightfully holding one of his mother’s comic books.

It’s a fascination that has evolved into a passion for studying and analyzing fictional characters.

Coupled with a lifelong interest in writing, Langley has emerged as a successful author and authority on the psychology of superheroes and fictional television characters.

“People ask me things like ‘when did you discover comic books? Or when did you discover Batman,’” he said. “To me, that’s like asking me when I discovered the sun. I was a nerdy kid interested in these nerdy things.”

By the time he graduated from high school, Langley knew he wanted to pursue psychology.

“When I was in the fourth grade, I checked out a psychology book at the library. I wanted to figure people out,” he said. “I didn’t understand anything in the book, but by gosh, I was trying.”

As a psychology professor, all of Langley’s interests finally merged about 10 years ago.

“The professor side of my life and the nerd side were two separate things until I went to ComicCon in 2007. A lot of things came together for me that summer,” he said. “It was a place that celebrates interests that might ostracize people somewhere else. I felt happy, comfortable, and full of joy in this environment.”

The experience had Langley thinking in terms of analyzing fictional characters and using them to talk about real psychology.

“I knew I had to be a part of this, and I knew I had to write a journal article about Batman,” he said.

Langley’s book, Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Night, was published in 2012. It became an immediate hit.

Langley explained that Batman is one of the best-known fictional characters in the world.

“He is a superhero because of his psychology. He’s not an alien from another planet, and he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider,” he said. “He went through trauma and decided ‘I shall become a bat and turn myself into a larger-than-life figure.’ It appeals to many different things in in people. His origin taps into our most primal fear of all – losing our parents.”

Langley developed a list of books he wanted to write, including one about Star Wars. But at the time, his editor said there was “nothing going on” with Star Wars.

“He (the editor) said there was no Episode 7, but I said ‘there will be,’” Langley said.

Langley’s prognostication proved to be right and he eventually received approval to work on The Psychology of Star Wars as editor and lead writeralong with a book about The Walking Dead. Both books have been published. He has also written and edited books about the psychology of Game of Thrones and Captain America.

Two books, Doctor Who Psychology: A Madman with a Box, and Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier, are currently in press. And Langley is co-editor of Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth, which is still being written.

As a prolific writer and a much sought-after expert, not to mention a full-time psychology professor, Langley manages to keep up with the demands.

“I’ll sleep when I’m old,” he said. “Actually, I can write a lot of things quickly.”

Langley teaches one media-related class every spring. This year, the class is Psychology of the Living Dead.

“I love teaching. I love talking and thinking about these kind of things,” he said. “Henderson is very supportive of creative ways of teaching. I am fortunate to be here.”

Department:
Department of Psychology

Contact Info:


Degree and School:
Ph.D. from Tulane University

Research:
Media psychology

I've been at Henderson since:
1994

Courses