A POPular cartoon

The Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from 5/4 (which was, appropriately, Star Wars Day):

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau), but here’s behavioral science + science fiction = behavioral science fiction. There’s something to be said about each of the contributing expressions.

Science fiction. The easier part. The genres of science fiction and science fantasy are often distinguished, to the detriment of science fantasy. Both the Star Trek and the Star Wars creations have sometimes been claimed to not be science fiction, but only fantasy. The reference to moon people in the cartoon above suggests that it too isn’t about science fiction, but fantasy.

Behavioral science. The history of the term begins with a 1913 address by John B. Watson advancing behaviorism as a scientific theory of psychology — taking people’s observable behavior as the only legitimate data, and excluding the positing of unobservable internal states. Giving rise to behavioral science as a term for psychology in the behaviorist mold.

The behaviorist frame of mind was then extended from the study of individual people to the study of social groups — again, avoiding the positing of unobservable properties of social groups. Giving rise to behavioral science as a term for social science in a broad sense, embracing psychology as well as more obviously social investigations (social science in a narrow sense).

Since the study in the cartoon above is going to consider societal factors (social science in a narrow sense) on the actions and decisions of moon people (a psychological study, of individuals), the behavioral science in the cartoon is social science in a broad sense, embracing all of the psychological and social sciences, as we would now say, without any commitment to behaviorist scruples. Still, the behavioral terminology persists, as a hangover from earlier days — as in the name of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (at Stanford).

3 Responses to “A POPular cartoon”

  1. J. B. Levin Says:

    Yesterday I saw Piraro’s note and especially Wayno’s push to use the name ‘streptonym’ for this, and I was certain you had already named it in linguistic terms (and no doubt have a page on this blog for it), but I couldn’t remember what it was. I must say, ‘streptonym’ doesn’t feel right to me as a term for a POP, though it is catchier for lay use.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: