A show about nothing is now among the curriculum for medical students.
Rutgers psychiatry professor Anthony Tobia has been teaching “Psy-feld” since 2009, an exercise in which episodes of “Seinfeld” are used by students to identify and analyze the array of psychological disorders exhibited on the TV show.
Psy-feld is not an actual course at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, but it is included for all third-and fourth-year students during their rotations in the hospital’s psychiatric unit.
The students are assigned to watch the show every Monday and Thursday night on TBS so they can discuss their observations in class the morning after.
Dr. Tobia told NJ.com,
You have a very diverse group of personality traits that are maladaptive on the individual level. When you get these friends together the dynamic is such that it literally creates a plot: Jerry’s obsessive compulsive traits combined with Kramer’s schizoid traits, with Elaine’s inability to forge meaningful relationships and with George being egocentric.
The professor said he got the idea for Psy-feld when a student suggested studying the characters on “Lost.”
But there’s arguably no program featuring more realistic psychological problems than “Seinfeld.”
One student said,
In this way, it just gives you a more solid picture of the pathology rather than just giving you words.
Tobia himself wrote a paper explaining how Elaine exhibits delusional disorder, using five of her ex-boyfriends as examples.
The show is also modeled after the odd mental process of its creator.
Jerry Seinfeld has even said that he believes he is on the autism spectrum due to the extreme discomfort he experiences in mundane social situations.
Tobia has recorded the academic significance of all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld” in a Psy-feld database, which additionally lists the unique psychological traits of nearly every character.
And this isn’t his only entertainment-centered teaching tool.
Also available for Rutgers medical students is an elective where they watch full-length movies and live-tweet how they would diagnose certain characters.