Another Famous Psychology Major

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We psychology teachers take bemused pleasure in noting one-time psych students who later become famous—people such as Jon Stewart, Gloria Estefan, Natalie Portman, Mark Zuckerberg, and (to balance the ledger) serial killer Ted Bundy.


To such lists I can add two more.


In 2014 the New Yorker cartoonist and cartoon editor Bob Mankoff wrote me out of the blue to say thank you for our textbook use of their cartoons. He also explained that “My own background, before I became a cartoonist, was in psychology of the behaviorist stripe, back in the early 70's.  I left when I realized those pigeons and rats were never going to get my jokes.” Our correspondence led to Mankoff’s visiting Hope College and speaking on the psychology of humor. And as this familiar cartoon illustrates, there is psychology in Mankoff’s humor.


During a recent retreat with two dozen folks working at depolarizing America, musician Peter Yarrow—of “Peter, Paul, and Mary” fame—shared with me his background . . . as a Cornell University psych major, where one of his mentors was the famed developmental psychologist (and Head Start co-founder), Urie Bronfenbrenner.


During an evening concert, Peter invited the young of heart on stage to join him for “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which he wrote 56 years ago. After getting down on his haunches to sing the chorus with individual children, he turned finally to the pregnant woman shown below. Seemingly aware of psychological research on fetal learning of familiar voices, he sang to her child in the womb. As he finished, tears were streaming down her face . . . and not hers alone.

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 Photo courtesy Byron Buck

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see