The classic comedy sitcom Seinfeld has always been known for its wacky characters and plotlines, controversial topics, and countless one-liners that have become staples of our every day conversations. Rutgers University in New Jersey has a new thing called “Psyfeld” created by associate professor of psychiatry, Anthony Tobia. In a series of sessions and studies, he has students watch movies and television shows to learn about mental illnesses. Some big media artifacts involved are Forrest Gump, Silver Linings Playbook, and of course, Seinfeld.

The Rutgers one-credit course, Film Depictions to Learn Mental Disease, or FIDLER for short, was approved in 2013 to teach psychology through film. Psyfeld is one of the smaller pieces of FIDLER, and is a unit studying Seinfeld. Tobia asks medical students to watch a rerun of Seinfeld the night before class so it can be used as a discussion piece that morning. Tobia says “Elaine’s boyfriends are great for learning about the different subtypes of delusional disorders.”

“You have a very diverse group of personality traits that are maladaptive on the individual level,” Tobia said. “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.”

Third- and fourth-year students can sign up for this class. Tobia has created a massive database of teaching points from all of the sitcom’s episodes, and students are to watch two episodes a week where the next day will surely be filled with quotes from the show.

A sample discussion is highlighted by Marlene Wang, a third-year student. “Jerry’s girlfriend doesn’t like George, and he just couldn’t live with the idea of this person not liking him.” Third-year student Ryan Townsend adds on the topic of George’s narcissism “I wouldn’t say he is completely narcissistic because he actually starts to enjoy the idea that she doesn’t like him. Narcissists can’t stand the idea that people don’t like them.”

Now if you excuse me, I need to go enroll at Rutgers to take a class on Psyfeld.

Photo Credit: GabboT