Alright, alright – for this week we are all describing one of our favorite activities to use in class. As I have taught Intro Psych. primarily since becoming a professor, I will be focusing on an activity I like to use for Intro. As a big fan of The Office, I would often watch an episode or two while eating dinner. I noticed quickly that there are TONS of clips from the office that are well suited to illustrate various topics we cover in Intro. Stated as directly as possible – my favorite in-class activity to use (for Intro Psych) is incorporating clips from The Office whenever and wherever possible.
I am sure most of us know about the scene where Jim works to condition Dwight with Altoids, or the scene where Dwight pressures Andy into selling him his car (helps to teach about social influence). In addition to these well-known scenes, I also like to use other clips from various parts of the show. For example, when teaching about emotions, you can pretty much select any clip from the show you want, turn the volume off and ask your class to identify what emotions each character is feeling at any point in time. What I have found is that most students report seeing similar emotions, which helps to emphasize the universal aspect of emotions. Further, you can ask the class to provide a reason why they indicated a particular character was feeling a certain emotion. Invariably, the students will point to facial expressions and movements of the body. From here, we can jump into a discussion of the body as both the producer of emotions and the “billboard” for emotions, which leads to a discussion of the social / connective function of emotions. I like to finish this section by playing the clip of Andy getting so mad he punches the wall, which students always seem to enjoy.
Believe it or not, The Office even has a perfect clip to help introduce the topic of just noticeable differences (JND) and Weber’s Law when teaching about basics of psychophysics! The particular clip that I like to use involves Jim talking to the camera about various pranks he has pulled against Dwight. In this particular scene, Jim discusses how over many months he would put another nickel in Dwight’s phone each day. Over each day Dwight could not feel the increasing weight in his phone. Then, Jim removes all of the nickels one night, and the next morning Dwight hits himself in the face because the phone is so light now.
While there are a few other scenes from The Office that I like to use, my absolute favorite has to be from the episode titled “Stress Relief”. The beginning of this episode has Dwight furious over the fact that no one listened to his fire safety presentation last week, so he decided to stage a fire in the office (where he also happens to lock all the doors). Of course, pandemonium ensues. Per the title of the episode, this clip, which results in Stanley having a heart attack, is an excellent way to introduce students to the topic of stress, health, and coping. I have found that students enjoy watching the clip in the first place, but are also able to relate technical terms and concepts they learn about stress back to the clip which certainly helps to ground their knowledge.
On the whole, I strive to include at least one video clip in each of my Intro Psych. lectures. Often this clip is from The Office (but sometimes from The Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother), and students always look forward to the video clip for the day. The scene that unfolds in the video provides great examples of the topic we are discussing, allows for student engagement and discussion centered around the clip, as well as a basis from which to understand some of the new information I am presenting throughout the lecture.
Something that I am going to be trying out next week is playing about a 5-10-minute clip from an episode of The Office and seeing how many connections students can make back to topics we covered during the semester. The whole point of this exercise will be to help students remember what was covered over the semester (to help with their studying for the final exam), but also to highlight how most all topics we touched on are part of the human experience. All in all, I highly recommend using The Office whenever possible!
What are some of your favorite shows to pull clips from for lecture? Comment below!
Written by Brian Day