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New class connects Taylor Swift to psychological phenomena

Taylor+Swift+performs+during+the+opener+of+her+Eras+tour+Friday%2C+March+17%2C+2023%2C+at+State+Farm+Stadium+in+Glendale%2C+Ariz.+%28AP+Photo%2FAshley+Landis%29
AP
Taylor Swift performs during the opener of her Eras tour Friday, March 17, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Beginning in the spring, a new psychology class will focus on an analysis of Taylor Swift, connecting the world-famous pop star to a psychological phenomenon.

The class, Psychology (Taylor’s Version), will follow many other universities that have drawn on popular culture and stardom to engage a new generation of students.

Because the class size was limited to 70 seats, the class’ instructor, Dr. Naomi Ekas, opened up a Ticketmaster-style waitlist for a permit code in early October in anticipation of high demand, and over 200 people joined. 

Dr. Ekas sent out a Ticketmaster-style waitlist for the class prior to enrollment. (Courtesy of Dr. Ekas)

“Taylor Swift’s music speaks to so much of the human experience as it relates to relationships,” Ekas said. “I wanted to figure out a way to connect the topics in my courses with my students’ lives. Music was my way of doing that.”

Ekas said the class will use Swift’s “music, videos, documentaries and public life to discuss psychological research related to friendships, love, bullying, gender roles and fandom.” 

However, as a developmental psychologist who focuses on understanding how and why people change as they age, she will apply a developmental approach to the course: something she hasn’t seen in similar classes. The approach makes the course unique to TCU. 

“The themes and lyrics present in ‘Taylor Swift’ (aka ‘Debut’) are a great representation of how teenagers think about and experience love,” Ekas said. “When we fast forward to ‘Lover’ and ‘Midnights’ there is a complexity that reflects the experiences of an adult.”

Ekas has been workshopping the course for over a year, jotting down her thoughts and inspiration from other courses. Since this is Ekas’ first year teaching the class, she said she promoted the class by posting cryptic flyers around the psychology building, a nod to Swift’s well-known Easter eggs. Ekas added that she is a Swiftie herself.

“I think it’s important for students to be able to connect what they learn in the classroom to the world they inhabit outside of the classroom. If using Taylor Swift’s music helps a student better understand a psychological theory or a study, then why not?” Ekas said. 

Ekas has structured the course with different psychology topics disguised as “eras.” She also plans to play a surprise song before every class and encourages singing along. However, she reminded those who signed up for the course that it is an actual college course with required reading and analysis of psychological theories and research, which will be evaluated by exams and projects. 

“I am honestly looking forward to the students’ contributions to the course,” Ekas said. “Ultimately, that is the heart of psychology: trying to understand human behavior and what makes us different.”

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