Professor Archetypes: The Science of Psychology

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If history was written by the victors, then there are plenty of botched psychology experiments that go untold. Psychology is, after all, a soft science, which might explain its tendency to attract English and Comparative Literature dropouts. If anything, someone has to knock some sense into a student body brought up on Plato’s Theory of Forms.

Behind a suppressed chuckle of self-satisfaction and a cultivated aura of comradeship, Dr. Strangelove embodies every contradiction inherent to an introductory psychology course. He stands post next to the double-door entrance to his lecture hall and casts a knowing glance at every student that enters, hoping to somehow ingrain himself as your future psychotic manifestation. Dare trot in late to class, and he will publically acknowledge your Freudian subconscious. Dr. Strangelove knows every gimmick in the book, because he effectively wrote the book.

By the semester’s end, Dr. Strangelove’s lectures degenerate into horrific art house cinema. One particularly heart-wrenching clip involves an infantile subject, “Baby Albert,” conditioned to violently fear white bunnies (spoiler alert: the baby was never reverse conditioned!). Somehow, though, I learned to stop worrying and love psychology.

illustration by Suzanna Buck



  1. Anonymous  

    Your characterization of psychology is pretty offensive

  2. Inferiority complex  

    To make psychologists feel better, they should rename intro physics "the science of physics," intro bio "the science of biology," etc. so it isn't as obvious that psychology needs to legitimize itself.

  3. Wow  

    You really ran with this one.... all psychologists are obsessed with Freud. Original and refreshing.

    The vast majority of Freud's theories have remained unsupported... psychology has moved on, unfortunately in Psych 101 they teach his theory because it is an important foundation for subsequent, empirically supported theories... I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this is the only bit of comedic material you could get your hands on.

  4. Student Pumped for Orgo Night  

    Top Ten Live TV Freudian Slip Ups!

  5. Anonymous

    That or the professor repeatedly walks into the projection screen and makes blind jokes that make people uncomfortable.

  6. Bwog  

    this is just dumb. You are clearly running out of material, should have stopped while this was still good. Honestly this one makes no sense. An archetype can't be based on one person's experience.

  7. Anonymous  

    None of the tenured faculty in the psychology department are even remotely psychodynamic.

  8. Anonymous  

    As a non-humanities major, I have to say this is the only archetype that I can actually relate to. Maybe there's something wrong with the way you stereotype Bwog posts

  9. Um  

    Has the person who wrote this taken any psych classes at Columbia? I can only guess not. Analyze your Freudian subconscious?

    The entire Columbia psych faculty is oriented towards experimental psychological science. The only times I have heard psychoanalysis come up involved grad students joking around over drinks or learning about the history of psychology in lecture courses.

    I'm a Neuroscience & Behavior major familiar with just about all the Columbia psych faculty, and I can think of no one who would fit this stereotype. It's not a Columbia professor stereotype, it's a stereotype of a field.

    • Um  

      Actually, the exception to the psychodynamic point would be the one or two classes geared towards clinical or abnormal psychology, which do tend to include more of that perspective. Those are still geared towards up-to-date experimental clinical science and taught by active researchers, though.

      • um, nope.  

        if you're talking psychodynamics you're talking history. this is an early guess at things we know a lot more about, like how our brain sends signals through neurons that control our every action and thought. abnormal psych is a tool in psychology that uses impairments to dissociate functions of brain areas, treat, and prevent impairments.

        • Um Yup  

          Clinical psychology still has psychodynamic approaches practiced, so classes in clinical or abnormal psychology will often discuss what those approaches are about more than others, in addition to discussing experimentally validated treatment methods.

          Still doesn't make anything about the professor archetype true about Columbia in the least.

          • i'd get a new doc.  

            psychodynamics is pretty wayward at this point in terms therapy techniques. it's a brief history lesson in class used to introduce what is really going on. do you have an extra personal relationship with your therapist?

          • Um Yup  

            Huh? I never said anything about therapy or validating psychodynamics. My only point was that a class in abnormal psychology is the only one at Columbia where you might spend time learning about the modern psychodynamic perspective, contrary to this silly post. Doesn't mean the teachers or students validate that as a scientific orientation.

            I'm neurocognitive through and through.

  10. BC '13

    Finally, a half-way decent drawing.

  11. Guys,

    You're not seeing the potential here. This post could be offensive to more than one major! Now hands up everyone who thinks Plato's Forms are awesome.

  12. Freud

    So, what I'm getting from this is that you want to kill your dad and fuck your mom.

  13. Hey Ricky!  

    what did u get in that class? \the baby was never reverse conditioned\ psssht that shit wears off if it ain't reinforced.
    When you say, \Strangelove embodies every contradiction inherent to an introductory psychology course,\ don't you think it'd be a good idea to name a contradiction? naaahh you right, i like my articles disjointed as fUCk!
    Your last sentence is not only redundant and confusing tenses (the pluperfect is legit), but it is also false. If you loved psych, then you wouldn't libel the department faculty and its majors.
    Hey Bwog editor!
    you approved this nonsense?! You can't make a good archetype if you don't know the major.

  14. Author

    I have seen the troll bait, and I will have none of it. I will say, however, that the intended riff of the article was a focus on the introductory course itself and not, say, psychology more generally. The tone may have become more clear in my discussion of "subject participation" that did not make the final edit (to be fair, it could have used more work).

    That said, I will direct you to a recent Times article I found relevant.

  15. grammar nazi?

    huh? we're doing departmental affiliations as archetypes now?

    also, the first sentence should read "if history WERE written by the victors". subjunctive FTW.

    also, history usually is written by the victors. victors, naturally, FTW as well.

  16. This  

    Looks like Todd Nelson.

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