In Session with “The Five-Year Engagement”

Join Dr. Sam and Dr. Fran this week for a Valentine’s Day themed session! The doctors travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to analyze the romantic comedy, The Five Year Engagement.  
Dr. Sam and Dr. Fran introduce a new (to the pod) type of psychologysocial psychology. They review Violet’s training and career path. What aspects of her path are accurate and which are exaggerated? Do all research studies include deception or being covered in feathers? Is it appropriate for a researcher and their trainee to have a romantic relationship? This session also reviews research and careers in social psychology.  
Finally, Dr. Sam and Dr. Fran unpack the romance aspects of the film including compromising and making decisions with a romantic partner and related resentment. What happened in Violet and Tom’s relationship and could things have been different? 
Will you marry us or at least listen to this week’s session?

Glossary of Terms

Social psychology – the study of how individuals affect and are affected by other people and by their social and physical environments

Confederateindividuals who seem to be participants in a study but in reality are part of the research team

Delayed gratification the ability to postpone an immediate gain in favor of greater and later reward

Correlation the degree to which a pair of variables are linearly related (NOT to be confused with causation)

Confounding variablefactors other than the main variable of interest that may cause a result, confounds the “true” relationship between two variables

Socioeconomic status a cumulative measure of a person’s family’s economic access to resources and social position in relation to others

Deception the intentional misleading of research participants or the withholding of full information about the nature of the experiment

Mirroringbehavior in which one person imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another

Informed consent (in research)the process of telling potential research participants about the key elements of a research study and what their participation will involve

Institutional Review Board (IRB) administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects

Postdoctoral fellowshipa training-focused position after a doctorate; usually act as a stepping-stone between the student experience and the full-time professional experience

Tenuretype of academic position which often involves an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances

Resentment the result of a perception that someone has treated you unfairly


We discuss an exciting field of psychology for the first time on the podcastsocial psychology. We also highlight some of the most popularized social psychology experiments, including the Marshmallow Test, the Milgram Shock Experiment, and the Stanford Prison Experiment.

The Five-Year Engagement provided lots of examples of do’s and don’t of conducting research. Read more about the ethics of using deception in research here.

A major theme of the movie is balancing a relationship with an academic career. Learn more about this common dilemma here.

We also discuss how resentment plays a role in Violent and Tom’s relationship challenges. Read more about how resentment can impact relationships in this article.