Sociology And Psychology Essays On Memory

A pioneer of French cinema, filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard said, “Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.”

Film as art is certainly no exception when it comes to capturing our minds and imaginations. Film provides a powerful medium for exploring what it means to be human, offering us a glimpse into human nature at its best, its worst and everywhere in between.

Perhaps that’s why there is no shortage of films that explore the gamut of psychological topics – making film a popular tool for teaching psychology.

  • The paranoia exhibited by Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg who unravels under stress in “The Caine Mutiny.”

  • The chilling descent into madness displayed by Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

  • The effect of one woman’s obsession on a man and his family in “Fatal Attraction.”

  • The moral dilemmas faced by the survivors of a torpedoed ship drifting at sea in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat.”

While there are hundreds of films that could be included on a list of movies that deal with psychology, here are a handful recommended by Saint Leo psychology faculty – all ‘must sees’ for students in online psychology degree programs.

1.  “12 Angry Men”

Drama (1957)
Social, moral development
Actors: Henry Fonda, John Fiedler
Plot: A diverse group of 12 jurors deliberates the fate of an 18-year-old Latino accused of murdering his father. As a lone dissenting juror tries to convince the others that the case is not as open-and-shut as it appears, individual prejudices and preconceptions about the trial emerge.
Recommended by: Dr. Lara Ault
Why recommended:  The movie has tremendous lessons and value in social psychology. It addresses prejudice, conformity, aggression, group interaction, leadership, persuasion, and other basic areas of social psychology and the study of normal human behavior.

2.  “28 Days” 

Drama/romance (2000)
Substance abuse disorders/alcoholism
Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West
Plot: Sandra Bullock plays a newspaper columnist who chooses to enter a rehabilitation center for alcoholism in lieu of jail time for stealing a limousine at her sister’s wedding and crashing it. Initially in denial that she is an alcoholic and resistant to treatment, with the help of fellow patients, she eventually begins to re-examine her life and comes to terms with her alcoholism and addiction to prescription medications.
Recommended by: Dr. Glenn Lowery
Why recommended:  This movie models good counseling skills and promotes optimism, while dealing with serious substance abuse issues.

3.  “A Beautiful Mind”

Drama (2001)
Abnormal psychology, psychotic disorders/schizophrenia
Actors: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Plot:  Based on the life of mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash, who suffers from severe mental illness, this film won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Recommended by: Dr. Antonio Laverghetta
Why recommended:  The film sheds light on the life and suffering of a person living with schizophrenia. Psychology students will notice that Nash exhibits many of the symptoms used to diagnose schizophrenia and can follow the increasing intensity of these symptoms and the effect on him and those around him. The film also shows the difficult task of managing the disorder and the importance of social support.

4.  “The Blind Side”

Biographical/sport (2009)
Social psychology, including social influence, family relations
Actors: Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates
Plot: “The Blind Side” is the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American boy who is adopted by a wealthy white family, the Tuohys. Michael realizes his full potential, succeeding in school and becoming a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
Recommended by: Dr. Helen Oderinde  
Why recommended:  This film does a good job of highlighting some of the difficulties and misunderstandings that take place when people of different cultures attempt to bridge cultural and racial differences and connect on an intimate level. The film also shows how mutually beneficial this engagement can be: the Tuohys open the door to educational and financial opportunity for Michael and he, in turn, opens their minds.

5. “Driving Miss Daisy”

Comedy/drama (1989)
Social psychology, developmental psychology/aging, Alzheimer’s disease
Actors: Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Akroyd
Plot: The movie begins in 1948 when, at the insistence of her son who decides his mother must stop driving, Miss Daisy Werthan, a wealthy Jewish Southern woman, hires an African-American chauffeur, Hoke Colburn. The story of their friendship unfolds over the following 25 years as they overcome their differences and discomforts and develop a loving friendship.
Recommended by: Dr. Antonio Laverghetta
Why recommended:  In addition to addressing the degenerative nature of Alzheimer’s disease, this film explores some of the big questions of interest in the field of social psychology: how prejudice develops and how it can be overcome.

6.  “Enough”

Drama/thriller (2002)
Social psychology, domestic violence
Actors: Jessica Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell, Tessa Allen
Plot: Based on the Anna Quindlen novel, “Black and Blue,” the film is about a working-class waitress named Slim who thinks she has married the man of her dreams. After the birth of their first child, he becomes controlling and abusive. Slim escapes from him several times, moving to different parts of the country with her daughter, but her husband tracks her down. She decides to prepare herself to fight back by learning Krav Maga self-defense techniques.
Recommended by: Dr. Tammy Zacchilli
Why recommended: Portraying a physical and psychological battle between the two main characters, this movie addresses the challenges of dealing with and escaping from an abusive relationship

7.  “Good Will Hunting”

Drama (1997)
Topics: Social and developmental psychology, treatment, giftedness
Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver
Will Hunting is a young, headstrong janitor at MIT with exceptional mathematical abilities. Abused as a child, he has numerous run-ins with the law and does not realize his full potential. With the help of a psychology professor, he finally receives the counseling he needs that will enable him to find his identity and change his life.
Recommended by: Dr. Glenn Lowery
Why recommended:  "Good Will Hunting." serves as a good teachable opportunity. This movie depicts a difficult therapeutic relationship between an ambivalent client and a somewhat unorthodox counselor.

8.  “The Hurricane”

Biographical/sport (1991)
Topics: Social psychology including prejudice, discrimination, violence, civil rights
Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger
This film is based on the life of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a top-ranked, African-American boxer who, in 1966, is expected to become a world champion when he is wrongly imprisoned for a triple murder. His appeals are rejected and his case seems hopeless until a teenage boy and his foster family find new evidence that eventually leads to his release two decades later.
Recommended by: Dr. Bob Jacobs
Why recommended:  “The Hurricane” highlights our ability to transcend our circumstances through internal change.

9.  “Identity”

Thriller/mystery (2003)
Psychotic disorders, forensic psychology
John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet
Plot: A group of strangers from different walks of life are forced to find shelter during a torrential rainstorm at an out-of-the-way Nevada desert motel. One-by-one, they are killed off. Meanwhile, in a related storyline, a psychiatrist tries to prove the innocence of a man accused of murder.
Recommended by:
Dr. Lara Ault
Why recommended:  “Identity” deals with a unique and controversial disorder (it’s a spoiler if I name it). It plays on some misconceptions about the disorder, but has a radical therapy suggestion that is intriguing. It is also an exciting murder mystery.

10. “Memento”

Crime thriller (2000)
Neuropsychology, memory loss/amnesia
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Leonard Shelby is an ex-insurance investigator who sustains a head injury when trying to prevent his wife’s murder and now suffers from amnesia. He learns how to cope with his condition using notes and tattoos as he tries to find the murderer and avenge her death.
Recommended by: Dr. Lara Ault
Why recommended:
  “Memento” deals with a person with short-term memory loss trying to solve a mystery. It is accurate, in many ways, regarding what life might be like for someone who cannot remember for more than a few minutes or seconds at a time. It is fascinating in a cognitive sense, as well as moving and emotionally engaging (and exciting).

11. “The Notebook”

Romance (2004)
: Clinical and social psychology, cultural differences, Alzheimer’s disease
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner
Plot: A poor young man, Noah Calhoun, falls in love with a young heiress, Allie Hamilton, during the summer of 1940. When Allie’s mother finds out, she bans her from seeing Noah and the family leaves their summer home on Seabrook Island and returns to Charleston. World War II intervenes and Allie and Noah go on with their lives but are reunited years later.
Recommended by: Dr. Tammy Zacchilli
Why recommended:  I show clips of this movie in my close relationships class because you can examine how love and relationships change over time. It is also relevant to developmental psychology because one of the characters has Alzheimer's disease.

12. “On Golden Pond”

Drama/comedy (1981)
Neuropsychology/dementia,  marital/family dynamics
Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda
This Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Actress tells the story of elderly couple, Norman and Ethel Thayer, who return to their summer cottage while dealing with Norman’s failing memory, onset of senility and strained relationship with his daughter.
Recommended by:
Dr. Mark Benander
Why recommended: This movie is full of great explorations of so many fundamental aspects of human nature, including family relationships, aging, death and dying, personal growth, and forgiveness. We are also treated to ways in which elements of nature such as a beautiful woodland lake, a treacherous cove, a dive into crisp clear water, and a family of loons can illuminate the powerful psychological dynamics of being human.

13. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Drama (1975)
Personality/mood disorders, forensic psychology, treatment
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield
Plot: Randle McMurphy has a criminal past. To escape his most current prison sentence, he pleads insanity so that he can be sent to a mental institution where he thinks he can serve his sentence more comfortably than in jail. Upon admittance, he rallies the other patients into rebellion against the oppressive Nurse Ratched.
Recommended by: Dr. Kevin Kieffer
Why recommended: This Academy Award-winning classic is a must-see film for psychology students. It provides a disturbing look into mental hospitals in the 1960s, including electroshock therapy as a form of treatment and a dysfunctional form of group psychotherapy.

14. “Ordinary People”

Drama (1980)
Family dynamics, stress and coping, mood disorders, therapy
Actors: Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch
Plot: When his older brother dies unexpectedly, guilt and grief push Conrad Jarrett to attempt suicide. After spending six months in a mental hospital, he returns home, sees a psychiatrist, and tries to return to normal. His parents each react differently to the trauma; his father attempts to deal with his grief, while his mother remains in denial, angry and depressed.
Recommended by: Dr. Kevin Kieffer
Why recommended: This film sheds realistic light on how one family deals with trauma and the resulting breakdown of the family unit. It offers a positive, affirming portrayal of a therapist and the value of therapy in helping Conrad and his father heal.

15. “Rain Man”

Comedy/drama (1988)
Neuropsychology/autism, marital/family dynamics
Dustin Hoffmann, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Plot: “Rain Man” is the story of a hustler, Charlie Babbit, and his brother, Raymond, an autistic savant unknown to Charlie who is living in an institution. When the brothers’ father dies and leaves his fortune in trust to Raymond, Charlie sets out on a scheme to gain custody of Raymond and control of the money during a classic cross-country road trip.
Recommended by: Dr. Antonio Laverghetta
Why recommended:  This film shed light on autism at time when there was little public awareness of the syndrome. Raymond exhibits many of the classic behaviors of a high-functioning autistic. As Charlie begins to understand Raymond more, he learns how to manage the stress associated with being his caregiver and becomes a better person.

16. “Regarding Henry”

Drama (1991)
Neuropsychology, retrograde amnesia, marital/family dynamics
Harrison Ford, Annette Benning, Michael Haley
Henry is a hard-driven lawyer who is shot in the head during a robbery and suffers brain damage. He emerges from a coma with retrograde amnesia. As he struggles to recover his speech and mobility and regain his memory, he experiences a shift in values and builds a new life for his family and himself.
Recommended by: Dr. Antonio Laverghetta
Why recommended: While real-life cases of retrograde amnesia are actually quite rare, films tend to depict it as fairly common occurrence and, therefore, often promote inaccuracies.  Despite that fact, this movie does a good job showing how retrograde amnesia can have a significant impact on individuals and their families – sometimes for good or ill.

17. “Reign Over Me”

Family drama (2007)
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith
Plot: The grief that Charlie Fineman experiences after losing his family in the September 11 attack on New York City causes him to quit his job and isolate himself. After a chance encounter, he rekindles his friendship with his old college roommate, Alan Johnson, who helps him to face his past and rebuild his life.
Recommended by: Dr. Mark Benander
Why recommended:  "Rein Over Me" is an entertaining movie, replete with laughs and more sober, thought-provoking scenes, but it also demonstrates some of the ways in which PTSD can impact the life of the affected individual as well as everyone in his or her life.

18. “Save The Last Dance"

Musical romance (2001)
Social psychology, interracial relationships, peer pressure, violence
Actors: Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Kerry Washington
Plot:. Sara, a white girl who has lived in the suburbs, is forced to relocate to Chicago’s inner city. With the move comes a new school with a predominately African-American student body, and Sara’s new boyfriend is a black teen, Derek, with whom she shares a love for dance.
Recommended by: Dr. Helen Oderinde 
Why recommended: “Save the Last Dance is centered on a teenage, interracial romance and the couple’s relationship with others. They continually meet with social and cultural conflict over their relationship and have to work hard to overcome prejudice and rise above cultural and social pressures.

What other films would you add to this list?

Image Credit: Razoom Game on Shutterstock

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Is An Online Psychology Degree For You?

Are you searching for a great topic for your psychology paper? Sometimes it seems like coming up with a good idea for a paper is more challenging than the actual research and writing. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places to find inspiration and the following list contains just a few ideas to help get you started.

Finding a solid topic is one of the most important steps when writing any type of paper. It can be particularly important when you are writing a psychology research paper or essay. Psychology is such a broad topic, so you want to find a topic that allows you to adequately cover the subject without becoming overwhelmed with information.

As you begin your search for a topic for your psychology paper, it is first important to consider the guidelines established by your instructor. In some cases, such as in a general psychology class, you might have had the option to select any topic from within psychology's broad reaches. Other instances, such as in an abnormal psychology course, might require you to write your paper on a specific subject such as a psychological disorder.

Focus on a Topic Within a Particular Branch of Psychology

The key to selecting a good topic for your psychology paper is to select something that is narrow enough to allow you to really focus on the subject, but not so narrow that it is difficult to find sources or information to write about.

One approach is to narrow your focus down to a subject within a specific branch of psychology. For example, you might start by deciding that you want to write a paper on some sort of social psychology topic. Next, you might narrow your focus down to how persuasion can be used to influence behavior.

Other social psychology topics you might consider include:

Write About a Disorder or Type of Therapy

Exploring a psychological disorder or a specific treatment modality can also be a good topic for a psychology paper. Some potential abnormal psychology topics include specific psychological disorders or particular treatment modalities, including:

Choose a Topic Related to Human Cognition

Some of the possible topics you might explore in this area include thinking, language, intelligence, and decision-making. Other ideas might include:

Consider a Topic Related to Human Development

In this area, you might opt to focus on issues pertinent to early childhood such as language development, social learning, or childhood attachment or you might instead opt to concentrate on issues that affect older adults such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Some other topics you might consider include:

Critique a Book or Academic Journal Article

One option is to consider writing a psychology critique paper of a published psychology book or academic journal article. For example, you might write a critical analysis of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams or you might evaluate a more recent book such as Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Professional and academic journals are also a great place to find materials for a critique paper. Browse through the collection at your university library to find titles devoted to the subject that you are most interested in, then look through recent articles until you find what that grabs your attention.

Analyze a Famous Experiment

There have been many fascinating and groundbreaking experiments throughout the history of psychology, providing ample material for students looking for an interesting term paper topic. In your paper, you might choose to summarize the experiment, analyze the ethics of the research, or evaluate the implications of the study. Possible experiments that you might consider include:

Write a Paper About a Historical Figure

One of the simplest ways to find a great topic is to choose an interesting person in the history of psychology and write a paper about them. Your paper might focus on many different elements of the individual's life, such as their biography, professional history, theories, or influence on psychology.

While this type of paper may be historical in nature, there is no need for this assignment to be dry or boring. Psychology is full of fascinating figures rife with intriguing stories and anecdotes. Consider such famous individuals as Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, Harry Harlow, or one of the many other eminent psychologists.

Write About a Specific Psychology Career

​Another possible topic, depending on the course in which you are enrolled, is to write about specific career paths within the field of psychology. This type of paper is especially appropriate if you are exploring different subtopics or considering which area interests you the most. In your paper, you might opt to explore the typical duties of a psychologist, how much people working in these fields typically earn, and different employment options that are available.

Create a Case Study of an Individual or Group of People

One potentially interesting idea is to write a psychology case study of a particular individual or group of people. In this type of paper, you will provide an in depth analysis of your subject, including a thorough biography. Generally, you will also assess the person, often using a major psychological theory such as Piaget's stages of cognitive development or Erikson's eight-stage theory of human development. It is also important to note that your paper doesn't necessarily have to be about someone you know personally. In fact, many professors encourage students to write case studies on historical figures or fictional characters from books, television programs, or films.

Conduct a Literature Review


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