The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass

The Department of Psychology


Dr. Stuart Fischoff

As any college student who has not spent their life in a glass bubble, sucking on a glass bong or watching reruns of Lost in Space can tell you, succeeding in graduate school is less a function of simple IQ than it is of social intelligence (SIQ). This is not to say that intelligence is not necessary for getting in and out of graduate school in less than Rip Van Winkle's snooze time. It is. But sheer IQ is not sufficient for making the journey if you want to graduate before you qualify for Golden Age discounts at movie theaters and aluminum walkers become your preferred mode of transportation. In a word, then, to make it through the academic gauntlet, you must be really SIQ.

Below are some pointers on how to be SIQ for fun and profit.

  1. Cultivate the right DSM-IV personality type (Axis II location) which can best be described as an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with adaptive paranoid vigilance. A vow of celibacy and adoption by Steve Forbes wouldn't hurt either.

    Doing the sheer work of grad school demands that when you're not writing, reading, or researching, you are overcome by pangs of guilt, morbid anxiety and obsessive ruminations. If you can have sex without such guilt, you're not SIQ enough.

    Paranoia is reality testing in graduate school. Everybody is trying to use you. You just have to decide whose exploitation will pay off for you in the long run.
    As for celibacy, well, if you're out of the running, it leaves some space for others to fill the void. While that's not per se helpful to you, it does make the world a little better for the rest of us.

  2. Knowing whom to know is another cardinal trait of those who are SIQ. Cultivate friends who are highly competitive. They will both spur you on when indolence gets the better of you and, if they are sufficiently neurotic, you can always ask them for help on a term paper. Once they've agreed, exhibit your secret weapon, learned helplessness. The competitive friend will gaze at you in condescending disgust and do your paper for you. This results in your getting a good paper with little effort while your friend can take pleasure in feeling superior. It's a clear win-win situation.
  3. Butter up the secretaries in the Psychology Dept. They're far more important than any faculty or chairman. They know more than anyone else about the rules, they can bend them for you and give you tips about which faculty to court and which ones to turn to only when hell turns to permafrost or when Madonna is cast in the lead of Oliver Stone's upcoming epic, Mother Teresa, JFK and The Dallas Connection. Be a modern day tooth fairy. Leave treats under the secretaries' computer keyboards. Sugar provides a temporary high which is the best time at which to approach secretaries with requests for favors. However, never, repeat, never make a request when they are about to break for lunch.

    Most important, some secretaries may seem irritable on the surface. But, deep down inside, they are truly cranky. Wouldn't you be if you did all the work and the faculty made all of the money?

  4. SIQ people join Psi Chi. The students who are members are often cheek to jowl with many faculty. They can grease the tracks which will slide you into pivotal positions with faculty to get recommendations for TA or GA positions or get you a sinecure as one of Dr. Perrot's grant-supported research assistants. Dr. Perrot is one of the handful of psychologists who understand that acoustic is not the opposite of electric.

    Many Psi Chi members also play poker -- badly -- so you can take their money to defray tuition costs. Poker Patsies tend to have first names which start with the letter "J."

  5. Every time you talk with department Chair, Dr. Roffe, punctuate your conversation with verbal pheromones like Home Page, Web Sites, Cybersex and Winslip. Do this with enough passion and it's a slam dunk that you can get him to waive the PSY 555 requirement.
  6. If you pass Dr. Lowenkron in the hall, make sure he overhears you muttering that psychology is not really a science and ABA is the only true path to enlightenment and personal salvation. This is not true. You know it. He knows it. But, since Behaviorists don't believe in the existence of the Unconscious, denial is their perfect defense mechanism. It doesn't exist yet it works so well.
  7. Finally, if you're doing a thesis, select faculty who have an obsessive need to be liked. They have first names which tend to begin with the letter "M." They will take your thesis proposal ideas, which may have come to you when you've zoned out after the 13th viewing of The Stupids, and turn the mess of clang associations into a workable proposal. Truly prime faculty candidates not only need to be liked but also suffer from OCD. They will proof-read your thesis, show you everything that's wrong and, if you look clinically depressed (always an advantageous persona to refine with psychology professors), rewrite it.

    Then, to really get them going, show them where they've made grammatical mistakes and confused Type I and Type II errors. It's cruel but it prevents them from feeling you owe them. (The present author is also an easy mark. Just provide me with a little sincere fawning at regular intervals and tell me over and over that media psychology is the wave of the future.)

    Of course, you can also work hard, write all your own papers with a thesaurus and dictionary at the ready, attend classes, read assignments, endlessly discuss psychology with other students, look for research projects to work on, master SPSS, DSM-IV and Excel, and stay away from people who think Armani is one of the foremost drug designers of Europe. But, well, that's getting an MA the old fashioned way, earning it. Good, but not SIQ enough.


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