More than 60 Mary Baldwin University psychology students attended a screening of the new film Divergent at The Dixie Theater on Tuesday night as part of their study of personalities and how it relates to the popular movie and young adult book series on which the film is based. Associate Professor of Psychology Louise Freeman, who has been conducting research on the books and will teach a course this summer at Louisiana State University about the psychology and neuroscience of the books and film.
Freeman and Assistant Professor of Psychology Chandra Mason decided to take students in Mason’s personality class to the film, and when The Dixie offered a generous group rate, they opened it up to other psych classes as well.
“The author of the trilogy, Veronica Roth, was a psychology student at Northwestern when she began writing [Divergent], and much of the dystopian world she has constructed is built around psychology theory, particularly Five Factor Personality theory,” Freeman said.
After the movie, Freeman and Mason gave a brief presentation.
“We figured at first we would be lucky to get 20 [students] and were delighted with the numbers we got,” Freeman said. “We had a great evening … we wound up with students from almost every class the department is teaching this year.”
The pair is also working on a paper arguing that Roth’s dystopian Chicago’s “Five Faction” system is based on the leading personality theory in psychology research today.
“It was a great lecture, and I enjoyed seeing how the five factions of Roth’s dystopian world (Erudite, Abnegation, Candor, Amity, and Dauntless) compared to each of ‘the Big Five’ personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism),” said student Autumn Bussuvanno ’14. “It was great seeing how relevant personality psychology was to the story of Divergent. Although I had little interest in the series before the lecture, I am really looking forward to watching the next film, and possibly reading the series, to see what else I find. Professor Mason and Dr. Freeman did an amazing job with this event, and I hope that the psychology department has more events like this in the future to get students to think more about psychology beyond the classroom.”
“During the discussion after the movie Dr. Mason provided some brief background on the five factors and you could really see how they fit into the main behavior traits of the different groups,” said student Rachel Cox ’16. “Dauntless, which is the one the movie centers around, definitely shows some adult-like outcomes for people who score high in neuroticism.”