Swiftposium: An end-of-class activity (or Psych Club event!)

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In an Optimist Daily article this morning, I learned that there are 54 Taylor Swift songs that have a beat that matches the recommended number of beats per minute for giving CPR (Optimist Daily, 2024). The healthcare professionals who identified the songs think that these songs may be more relevant to younger generations than the Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive.

I’m going to digress a bit before getting to the student activity.


First digression thread. I cannot think of Stayin’ Alive without first thinking of Saturday Night Fever followed immediately by Airplane!. If you’re desperate for examples of retrieval cues, you’re welcome to use those. I wonder how many of your students know that the “man dancing” emoji (🕺🏻) is John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. If you’re looking for a light but very entertaining read, check out Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!. If you want to give Stanley Milgram’s six degrees of separation some love, I know someone who knew the actor who played the character to first vomit. He obviously knew Leslie Nielsen and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. If you know me, then you are five degrees from them, making you six degrees from just about everybody in the acting world and the sports world. If you and I haven’t met yet, then let’s meet the next time we’re at a conference together. Just say, “Hi, I want to get closer to Leslie Nielsen.”

Second digression thread. Ambulances used to be operated by police departments. No treatment was offered along the way. There was one goal: get the injured to a hospital as quickly as possible. One physician—the one who invented CPR—and an all-Black ambulance crew in Pittsburgh changed ambulances into what they are today. For that history, I highly recommend the book American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America's First Paramedics.

Third digression thread, which is really a sub-digression. My wife volunteers for the box office—it’s a small table and a laptop—at our local arts theater. One patron who is a frequent attendee has an incredible mental database of actors and movies that he shares snippets from. For example, he recently shared that one actor’s niece and another actor’s daughter appeared in a movie together. Not the movie that was playing that night, mind you, but some other movie. I’m afraid that I don’t remember what cued this particularly memory for him. In my defense, I didn’t know I was going to need a few days later! My first two digressions remind me of this guy. Something cued his retrieval of that movie, and in this blog post, I seem to sharing with you every memory retrieval I am having this morning. Which leads to…

…the fourth digression thread. Have you seen the 2024 Oscar-nominated film for Best Picture, American Fiction? That was the movie that was playing the night I met the affectionately named Random Movie Fact Guy. If you haven’t seen American Fiction, I highly recommend seeing it. Be sure to notice the cameo by Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s doll study.


I also learned from the Optimist Daily article that this Taylor Swift/CPR information was delivered at Swiftposium 2024 held Feb 11-13 at the University of Melbourne. It appears that the Swiftposium was an opportunity for the University of Melbourne faculty to share with the University of Melbourne community how their fields intersect with the cultural phenomenon that is Taylor Swift. While I am not a Swiftie—nor am I an anti-Swiftie—I enjoy a good cultural phenomenon. As of December 2023, nine of her songs had over a billion listens on Spotify (Morgenstern, 2023).

Whether your students are Swifties or not, a cultural phenomenon is worthy of psychological study. As an activity to wrap up Intro Psych, consider inviting your students to present at their own in-class Swiftposium—posters or presentations, individually or small groups, in-person or online. Do whatever makes the most sense given your course modality and number of students. Even if you don’t do a Swiftposium, this would work as the basis for a written assignment or discussion.

Instructions: Identify one concept we covered in this course (in class or in your course readings) and explain how that concept connects to Taylor Swift. The connection could be to just about anything, such as her music, her concerts, her fans, or her relationship with Kansas City player Travis Kelce. Identify the concept, briefly explain the concept, and then draw the connection to Taylor Swift.

Here are a few examples.

After the Super Bowl, Kelce asked Swift who had flown in from Tokyo for the game, “How do you not have jet lag right now?” She replied, “Jet lag is a choice” (Hanson, 2024). Based on what students have learned about sleep, is jet lag a choice? From what we know about jet lag, what might Taylor Swift have done to minimize jet lag?

What behaviors do Swifties engage in to signal in-group membership to other Swifties?

Taylor Swift encouraged her fans in an Instagram post to register to vote by going to Vote.org. “Vote.org registered more than 35,000 voters after Swift's post, which was a 22.5% increase from the previous year, organization CEO Andrea Hailey said Wednesday. There was a 115% increase in registrations by 18-year-olds when compared to last year. The organization also helped 50,000 people verify their registration status” (Chasan, 2023). This behavior could be explained by the persuasion principle of liking.




Chasan, A. (2023, September 21). More than 35,000 people register to vote after Taylor Swift post—CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/taylor-swift-encourages-voter-registration/

Hanson, H. (2024, February 17). Taylor Swift’s 5-word take on jet lag will have you go, “Hmmm.” Yahoo Entertainment. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/taylor-swifts-5-word-jet-170134945.html

Morgenstern, L. (2023, December 5). Taylor Swift’s 15 most popular songs, ranked (according to Spotify). TheThings. https://www.thethings.com/taylor-swift-most-popular-songs/

Optimist Daily. (2024, February 19). Fearless hearts: More than 50 Taylor Swift songs are perfect for life-saving CPR. https://www.optimistdaily.com/2024/02/fearless-hearts-more-than-50-taylor-swift-songs-are-perfect-fo...


About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.