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Psychology and the Media

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

In "Psychology and the Media," we will explore and evaluate the ways in which psychology and psychologists are (mis)-represented in the popular media, including movies, television, and on the internet. Students will gain a fundamental knowledge of abnormal psychology, forensic psychology, and the diagnosis and treatment of psychological distress. Films, TV clips, and websites will be used to illustrate the ways in which psychology and psychologists are portrayed in the media and to stimulate discussion about the accuracy, ethics, and implications of the media on public perceptions of psychology.

Television, cinema, and internet media are rife with portrayals of mental illness and psychotherapy. But have you ever questioned the accuracy or the implications of these images? For example, is schizophrenia accurately portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind? How representative is the depiction of autism in the movie Rain Man? Why do psychologists testify in court, as depicted on television shows such as CSI or Law and Order? Do the depictions of mental health providers such as Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos affect the public’s perception of clinical psychologists, or likelihood to seek help? Can internet self-help groups cause more harm than good? In “Psychology and the Media” we will address these kinds of questions and discuss the ethics and implications of media portrayals of psychotherapy and psychological distress. Specifically, we will explore and evaluate the ways in which psychology and psychologists are (mis)-represented in the popular media. Students will gain a fundamental knowledge of abnormal psychology, forensic psychology and the diagnosis and treatment of psychological distress.

By the end of the course, students will be able to understand core issues in abnormal psychology, forensic psychology and the diagnosis and treatment of psychological distress; to discuss the ways in which psychology and psychologists are portrayed in the media; and to critically evaluate the accuracy, ethics, and implications of such portrayals.