The Caveman Goes to Hogwarts

Why is magic so appealing to our evolved brains?

Slugging Your Way to The Top

Why we think anyone interested in psychology or human nature should go see the Fighter, even if you don’t like fighting, you don’t like lower class Micks, and you don’t like spending ten bucks

Vengeance in Disneyland?!

 There is a psychology of revenge and a psychology of forgiveness.  Which one do you expect Junior to see when you take him to see a Disney-Pixar film?  

Fathers, sons, and dragons: Three generations bond at the movies

Almost 30 years ago, my father and I sat together in a dark theater to watch Return of the Jedi.   Recently, we drove with my son and my (much) younger brother to sit together in a dark theater to watch the animated movie How To Train Your Dragon.  The boys loved the movie, and we learned a little bit more about the psychology of father-son bonds

What secret is your spouse keeping from you?

The other morning my dad discovered a shocking family secret:  His own father had -- unbeknownst to him, to his sisters, or to their mother -- fathered a child with another woman.  That afternoon, he was still in an unsettled frame of mind, so we went to see a movie. We knew little about the film, so were surprised when it turned out to be about a family man who had, as a young fellow, fathered a child outside of wedlock, and then kept it secret for two decades. (coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick)

Videogames, Fine Art, and Roger Ebert’s Surprising Controversy

You might find it astonishing to hear that Roger Ebert stirred up a massive storm of protest by suggesting that videogames are not art.  But considered in light of modern research and theory about the evolution of the human brain, what appears to be a tempest in a teapot is actually anything but trivial. (Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick)

How Al Gore, James Cameron, and YOU are Destroying Earth

 Pro-environmental attitudes often ironically inspire behaviors that are bad for the environment.  What can we do about it?   Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick  

Survival Is Memorable, But Do You Want to Go There?

How did the Hurt Locker beat out 9 other nominees for Best Picture, nearly all of which were more popular at the box office? Part of the answer is suggested by some intriguing research demonstrating people allocate special cognitive resources to thinking about survival. But then, if those who watched The Hurt Locker found it so memorable, why didn’t more people see it? 

Evolutionary Psychology and The Oscar Race: The Final Lap

2009 was a great year for movies, and the contenders for Best Picture dealt with many facets of the classical evolutionary themes. Which movie should win?    

Mating budget bankruptcy

What would it be like to be obese, friendless, and poverty stricken, living with a mother who hates you, and a father who rapes you? Most of us probably don’t even want to think about such questions, much less sit through a movie about just such a life. Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen Precious, you should. Not only does it tap interesting psychological processes, it may make you feel differently about your own life. Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick

When Life Imitates a Made-For-TV Movie

Michael Oher was a poor black kid taken into the home of a wealthy white family. They fed him, clothed him, and tutored him, and helped him turn his life around.  Michael’s tested IQ went up 20 or 30 points, he went to college, and went on to become a highly payed NFL football player. The story is a celebration of positive psychology – of astounding acts of kindness, courage, and overcoming adversity. So what’s not to love about a movie that tells this wonderful story?--Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick

The Morality of Mayhem and Murder

Psychological research suggests that depictions of violence in the media have numerous adverse effects, such as desensitizing viewers to real violence. What in the world could make a liberal psychologist, who has reviewed all this research, enjoy a film in which the central characters go after their victims with bombs, baseball bats, and scalping knives? Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick

Does God exist, and if so, who cares?

Why do people believe in God?  This is a question several evolutionary psychologists have been asking of late, and it’s one that the Coen Brothers address in A Serious Man. Will this movie stand as a deep comedic treatment of the meaning of life, next to Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, or is more like a philosophical treatise written by the stoner Dude in the Big Lebowski?  

For a Psychological Lift on Valentine’s Day: Watch Up

Are we really saying you'll get more psychologically out of a Disney cartoon - with a schmaltzy Hollywood ending and the grumpy aging voice of Ed Asner - than out of an avant-garde movie that takes an edgy look at modern life and stars George Clooney at his cleverest coolest best? Up celebrates the social contacts that psychological researchers have shown so important to health and happiness, and will send you and those you love (regardless of your ages) away feeling both perceptually rewarded and glad to be connected.  Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick

Modern technology as intimacy’s enemy: Are we all “Up in the Air?”

Relationships with families, lovers, and friends, are costly.  Modern technology -- in the form of planes that allow us to move far away, and communication devices such as cell phones and computers that allow us to maintain some semblance of contact -- can free us from those costs. But at what price?  

Two Kinds of Bad Guys: District 9 and Human Prejudice

UBC psychologist Mark Schaller’s research demonstrates big differences between prejudice based on fear and prejudice based on disgust. Schaller notes that movies exploit both kinds of prejudices – sometimes depicting big bad burly guys with guns, other times depicting oozing, slimy, disease-ridden aliens.  District 9 manages to turn the volume up on both fear and disgust at the same time, while depicting a nearly hopeless and degenerate world full of prejudice.  How does it do all these nasty things in a way that is psychologically appealing enough to merit a nomination for Best Picture? (Coauthored by Douglas T. Kenrick)