Psychology Goes to Hollywood

As you learn more and more psychology, you may notice that many movies and television shows make mistakes regarding psychology (if you find an example of correct use of psychology, post it here for points). Now you can turn your pop culture knowledge into extra credit! If you see a psychological mistake in a movie or TV show, post it here. Just provide the following information to earn a few extra homework points:

The name of the movie/show (date of release would be great, too).
What psychological information did they use.
What is wrong with the psychological information they used.
The source of the correct psychological information.
Your first name (so we know who posted it).


Movie: The Waterboy, starring Adam Sandler (1998)

In the movie, the professor says that a large medulla oblongata causes alligators to be overly aggressive.
The medulla is responsible for heartbeat and breathing (Myers, 72). Aggression is influenced by several parts of the brain including the hypothalamus, amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex (
Posted by Mr. Izzy.

TV Show: Heroes; Season 3 Episode 1 (September 22, 2008)
When Maya gets angry at Mohinder (Dr. Suresh) and then gains control of herself again, he asks her how she did that. She says that she just "calms down." Mohinder says that this is a sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response. It is actually the parasympathetic nervous system that calms you down while the SNS is responsible for stimulation and excitiement. "The sympathetic nervous system responds to impending danger or stress, and is responsible for the increase of one's heartbeat and blood pressure, among other physiological changes, along with the sense of excitement one feels due to the increase of adrenaline in the system. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is evident when a person is resting and feels relaxed, and is responsible for such things as the constriction of the pupil, the slowing of the heart, the dilation of the blood vessels" (
Posted by Evelyn Lee

Movie: 50 First date starring Adam Sandler and Drew Berrymore (2003)

When Lucy realizes what has happened to her over the last year, her family and her supposed- boyfriend take her to the psychologist to get a check up on her brain. The doctor mentions that her temporal lobe has been severely damaged and that it still hasn't made any improvement. This part is correct since temporal lobe is involved in short-term/long-term memory loss. <> However, he further says, "what we believe here, is that the scar tissue here is impairing your ability to convert short term memory to long term memory while you sleep. The condition has come to be known as the goldfield syndrome." The goldfield syndrome doesn't exist at all, for the record.

-Kelsey Park

TV Show: Grey's Anatomy; Season 5 episode 9: In the Midnight Hour

Around 7:30 seconds through the show, Tores and Mark are talking about a patient who has night terrors, and sleep walking at the same time.
He is gets crazily hurt and panics, even in the hospital. They get it right!

-Julie Lee

Movie: Freaky Friday (2003)

In the movie the mother comes out as a famous psychologist. There is a scene where Annie (Lindsay Lohan) is in the body of her mother. There, she has to deal with her mothers patient and her mother tells her to say "and how do you think about it" whatever the patients say. This applies to the humanistic therapies because it talks about the conscious side of the pateints also the therapist tries to make the patient interpret the situation. According to the text book, humanistic therapies focus on "the present and future more than the past." Here is a short clip from the movie of the therapy session.

posted by Stacy Moon

Mall Cop (2009)
This movie is call the Mall Cop. The main character has a Hypo- Glycemia. The symptoms he had looked very similar with narcolepsy.
According to Wikipedia,
"Hypoglycemia can produce a variety of symptoms and effects but the principal problems arise from an inadequate supply of glucose as fuel to the brain, resulting in impairment of function (neuroglycopenia)."

Bedtime Stories (2009)
You can fast forward to 9:10
Adam Sandler explains that his friend has sleep anxiety disorder.
Sleep anxiety disorder is not the correct term in this case. The correct term that should've been used is night terror. Night terror is when one might suddenly wake up for no reason and shout/scream. The person would then go back to sleep as if nothing had happened. (

I Am Sam (2001)
The movie is about a father who has mental retardation which is a condition of limited mental ability, indicated by an intelligence score below 70 and difficulty in adapting to the demands of life (Myers 439). Even though he has mental retardation he tries to win the custody of her seven years old daughter. The movie reflects the father's lawyer learning about the importance of love and family throughout the relationship between the father and the daughter. Here is a short clip where the two interacts in the movie. The mental retardation is continuously carried out through the whole movie.

By Stacy Moon

The name of the movie/show (date of release would be great, too).
The name of the movie is One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and the date of release is 1975.

What psychological information did they use.
The psychological information that they used was the several disorders that the characters had. Most of the patients in the mental institution choose to be there voluntarily and most of the disorders are delusions, hallucinations, major stuttering, anxiety disorders, and more. The main character of the movie does not have a mental disorder but is treated as a patient in the mental institution.
What is wrong with the psychological information they used.
The psychological information they used wrong was when they described the electroconvulsive therapy but the main character should have been mindless afterwards. However, at the end of the movie the character receives lobotomy and becomes a ‘human vegetable.’
The source of the correct psychological information.
Your first name (so we know who posted it).

TV Show: Kyle XY - Peter Lee

(go to 4:49)

This show's about a guy named Kyle who spends his first 16 years of his life in a fluid-filled tank. It effectively recreates a mother's womb. So by staying in the "womb," he doesn't use 10% of his brain, but rather now can use almost 100% of his brain. However, we already use 100% of our brains, which is the mistake.

In this episode, his cloned "father" Adam Baylin explains that Einstein supposedly stayed in his mother's womb in gestation for longer than the average person (40 weeks), justifying the geniusness of Einstein. The reasoning is pretty good - we develop faster as we're babies, so if we're babies longer, we can develop faster.

Title: What Women Want (2000)

Psychological information did they use: The protagonist believes that he is hallucinating because he is hearing voices and thoughts.
What is wrong: The correct definition of hallucination is when you are hearing voices in your own head, not of others. Auditory schizophrenia can also be in form of music or repetitive speeches. Also, unlike the comical cause of this symptom, hallucination is mostly caused by too much internal thought, social isolation.
The source of the correct psychological information:
Added by Megan

By Pola Shim
This movie is called the "Rain Man" starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Charlie (Tom Cruise) is the younger brother of Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Raymond is a man with autism and the movie is about Charlie taking care of him. Charlie realizes that Raymond has one good ability in numbers and uses him to gamble and so on. The overall movie shows many things about autism.

The Butterfly Effect

This movie is about a college student named Evan, played Ashton Kutcher, who recalls his memories from the past by reading the diaries he had written as a child. The various psychological themes present in this movie are memory cues, and repressed memories( The way memory cues are used is through the diary he wrote as a child. These cues help recall information that had already been encoded in the long-term memory. Repressed memories, a theory in Freudian psychology, refers to the fact that he repressed the bad memories of the past. But now, because of the various memory cues, he is recalling all the information.
-Susan #2-

Mozart and the Whale

This is sort of a small-name movie about a quirky romance between two people with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of pervasive developmental disorders, a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormalities in social interaction and an inability to empathize or connect easily with peers. Asperger's sydrome is often classified as a form of mild autism. In this movie, the two main characters have Asperger's Syndrome and are part of a therapy group for people with various disorders, ranging from emotional to personality. The woman has a clear disregard for social norms (as you can see in the first video), while the man is inversely extremely self-conscious and shows Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder signs (as demonstrated in the second video). The movie talks about how the two come to 1) accept their disorder 2) work across their respective issues and 3) turn their relationship into a functional, romantic one. The psychology of this movie is very accurately portrayed and the actors do a good job of displaying proper Asperger's Syndrome symptoms, such as overly formal language (especially with the guy), cases of extreme creativity (especially with the girl), a fascination with the sciences or math, difficulty thinking abstractly (the girl tends to take things too literally), making eye contact (the guy always seems to look away or fidget when talking to someone else), and so on. Moreover, Asperger's Syndrome tends to be treated with group therapy. (Source:

A Beautiful Mind

This movie is about a mathmetician, who has won a Nobel Prize, has a good relationship with his wife, colleagues, and friends. However, he has a disorder that will change his life forever - schizophrenia. This movie, although based on a true story, has a few false facts, as well as a few accurate details. Some false use of psychology is that his auditory and visual hallucinations are completely interactive, and fully formed. In schizophrenic patients, however, hallucinations are still rare and none are as realistic an long as John Nash's hallucinations. However, this movie shows the effect schizophrenia can have on familial ties and friends.
-SUSAN #2-


This comedy revolves around the main character and his partner who promise things to people such as tax refunds, package vacations, and other fabulous prizes, and take their money. They pretend to be money collectors in order to get money. The relation to psychology in this movie is the fact that the main character suffers from Obsessive Compulsion Disorder (OCD). This is a disease characterized mainly by anxiety. The main character here is always anxious and calms himself down with cigarettes. In the trailer, one can see that he is also inclined to cleaning the house, and every bit of dirt on furniture, bathroom, bedroom, etc. He goes in to see a psychologist. One problem in this movie is that people with OCD usually do have anxiety, yes, but they do not have OCD about various things, such as cleaning, and fear, and anxiety about going out of the house. Thus, this is partially a false representation of the disorder



The main character of the story has a brother with an autistic disorder. However, this is not a normal case of autistic disorders because his brother has an amazing ability to count cards, memorize baseball statistics and even the phone book. This kind of disorder is referred to as savant syndrome. People with autistic disorders are usually born with it, but it may develop as the person gets older. But, people like the character in Rain Man who have savant syndrome have an amazing ability to focus their memory or attention to one specific thing. This can cause people to have great feats and abilities that other normal people do not. Although those with savant syndrome cannot respond in social situations as a normal person, they still have amazing abilities, In Rain Man, the brother partly uses his brother for counting cards to get money and etc.



This is a TV Show series on the network called Showtime. In this show, a man, who works as a police officer, works to pursue and arrest those who hurt others through murders, homicides and etc. The ironic thing here is that Dexter himself has a disorder called antisocial behavior, which allows him to become a serial killer when he is done with work. Antisocial behavior allows one to be completely free of moral values. Thus he will not care or feel horrible or feel empathy for people he kills because of antiscocial behavior. However, some things that don't add up in the show are facts such as him being able to have a family and love them while being able to kill many people at the same time, and feel no remorse. It seems odd that a person like that can have a family.



In the movie, Ordinary People, the main character, Conrad has many symptoms that point to post traumatic stress disorder. Because he is the other son that lived after being involved in a fatal sailing incident, where his brother got killed. He probably has amounted stress. For instance, he has very realistic and frightening dreams and make him jerk constantly and wake up in the middle of the night. During the day, he is distracted, isolated and closed off. He doesn't allow people to talk to him or connect with him, and no one can identify what he is going through. All of these symptoms could have also been caused by his parents' authoritarian way of parenting. Because they punish him and blame him without give him much reason, he feels compelled to commit suicide.



Psycho is a thriller film that depicts a psychological disorder called dissociative disorder. The story begins with a woman who flees from her town with 40,000 dollars she steals from her boss. She decides that she is going to start a new life. Then she stops by at a motel where she meets Norman, the motel owner. He is the one with dissociative disorder. This disorder is referred to as a disorder with period of detachment from self or surrounding and may experience unreal situations. In his particular case, he keeps hearing his mothers voice, or thinking about his mother. This is all from his memory and he is depicted as a very peculiar man throughout the movie.