Psychology students get their five seconds of TikTok fame in IntroPsych TikTok competitions

C/O MacIntroPsych

MacIntroPsych is turning the nightly routine of scrolling through TikTok into an educational habit, with psychology-themed posts and TikTok competitions for IntroPsych students. To get students engaged in the online learning environment, the course has taken to social media to make course content fun and accessible.

As the course was originally taught in a blended learning format, IntroPsych was well-prepared for the shift to online learning. A major difficulty faced by the university in transitioning to an online learning environment was transferring in-person lectures and tutorial components to an online format.


visual processing?? ... light work ##foryoupage ##fyp ##retina ##photoreceptor

♬ original sound - Lucas Geling

“[This year, we saw] such an outpouring of support, love and gratitude for the work that we put in and that definitely made it all worth it. Not to mention, we saw a huge increase in enrollment in PSYCH 1XX3 compared to previous years — we have 100 additional students this semester. I really thought this year would be like the rest of 2020, a bit of a dumpster fire, but it ran better than I could have expected. The students were engaged, happy and funny,” said Dr. Cadieux.

In the past, IntroPsych held meme competitions on Twitter, where students sent in their best original psychology-related memes leading up to important examinations. The TikTok competitions emerged from the Twitter competitions, in a natural shift to the up-and-coming social media platform.

The transition to TikTok competitions was driven by the IntroPsych TAs, who turned their joke of becoming “TikTok famous” into a reality. They started the TikTok account in January 2020 but started posting videos more frequently in fall 2020. Now the most popular video on the IntroPsych TikTok account has surpassed 40,000 views.

“One of the awesome things about both the professors is they’re very much down to try anything that’s interesting or anything that the TAs are passionate about. The IntroPsych team isn’t afraid to have fun and incorporate learning into fun and vice versa and I think that’s what really helped set the foundation for this TikTok sphere that we made,” said Zoe Thompson, a fourth-year psychology, neuroscience and behaviour student in her second year as an IntroPsych TA.

The TAs were inspired by Darrion Nguyen, a TikTok creator who produces educational and accessible science content for students. The teaching team creates their own psychology-related videos based on difficult course concepts throughout the semester with the goal of making course content more digestible for students.

The next TikTok competition will be around the April exam period. To enter the TikTok competitions, students can let their creativity run wild and post any TikTok related to IntroPsych course content with the contest hashtags.

The top two entries are chosen by the number of likes, while there are two additional TAs’ choice runner-ups. UberEats gift cards are reserved as prizes for the top four entries.


Be critical when reading papers to understand their weaknesses! Charity: Empowerment Squared ##macintropsych ##macintropyschtiktok

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“[Creating TikTok videos] is a form of elaborative rehearsal. It takes a lot of thought because you have to know something about pop culture, but you also have to know something about the concept that you’re teaching [to put] them together in a thoughtful way,” said IntroPsych professor Joseph Kim.

The IntroPsych team encourages students to make the most of their university experience and take responsibility for their learning in and outside of classes.


##fyp ##brain ##why

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“The onus is on the instructor [to facilitate student engagement], but at the end of the day, it’s also up to the students to put in an effort and make an investment in their own learning,” said Kim.

By: Esther Liu, Contributor

What are your plans for Halloween this year?

My daughter is really into Harry Potter so she is dressing up. Her favourite house is Ravenclaw, so she has a school outfit for it. My dog – it's so funny – she's going to be dressed up as a UPS delivery dog. It's so hilarious 'cause there's a little box and so when she's walking, it looks like she's carrying it and she has her little hat. I'm not 100 per cent sure what I'm going to be doing – there's typically a student group, UNICEF, that gets this stuff organized so I think that's happening but I'm not 100 per cent sure. 

Voting is now open #MacIntroPsych students. You pick what I will wear to lecture on Mon Oct 30 to celebrate Halloween supporting @UNICEF

— Joe Kim (@ProfJoeKim) October 20, 2017

Do you have any costume plans of your own?

For the last several years, all of my Halloween costumes have been decided by students, by UNICEF. I know that [Michelle] Cadieux, she and her husband, they have a lot of costumes – they're totally into Halloween. So I think she said that she could lend me something. I don't know other than that . . . Maybe I might join my daughter and dress up as a professor from Harry Potter.

When did you start the tradition of dressing up?

I think that started maybe five or six years ago for UNICEF. Last year, the students chose Super Mario. I think the year before that I might have been Black Widow [and the year before that [was] Wonder Woman. [The] year before that – what's her name from Frozen? –  Elsa and the year before that [was] Princess Leia. 

Thanks #MacIntroPsych students for supporting @UNICEF for today's lecture. Hope you had a Wonderful day!

— Joe Kim (@ProfJoeKim) October 30, 2017

What are the student reactions?

They seem to really enjoy it because I'm lecturing wearing the Halloween costume and at the end of the lecture I always have a lot of students coming up who want to take pictures. If you go on Twitter there's a bunch of pictures that have been posted over the years. 

Do you have any favourite costumes?

I would say my favourite costumes have been the ones that the students picked – my daughter really gets a kick out of it too. But, I'm a really big fan of Star Wars, so maybe the Princess Leia one is my favourite.

Do you have any ideal costumes?

Again, I'm a big fan of Star Wars so maybe it would be Obi-Wan Kenobi, that'd be kind of cool. It would be a really comfortable costume to wear as well.

Thanks #MacIntroPsych students for supporting @UNICEF and for selecting my Halloween costume. Note to self: it's not easy lecturing with an itchy moustache and using a slide advancer wearing oversized gloves.

— Joe Kim (@ProfJoeKim) October 29, 2019

I wanted to ask you about some Halloween phenomena. Do you remember the creepy clown phenomenon in 2016?

Was that 2016? I don't think I remember it too well. I think clowns are creepy though – I don't think that they look funny at all. I think it looks really creepy. I would say I find them as creepy as sharks. I have a mildly irrational fear of sharks and being attacked by a shark just from watching Jaws. Is there anyone who likes clowns? I don't like creepy dolls – you know those old-fashioned like creepy dolls? Yeah, you couldn't dare me to sleep in a room with creepy dolls and clowns for a million dollars. 

One theory as to why clowns are scary is the concept of the uncanny valley. The concept was first introduced in the 1970s by Masahiro Mori, who coined the term to describe his observation that as robots appear more human-like, they become more appealing. But once they reach a certain point – the uncanny valley – this appeal becomes a feeling of strangeness, a sense of unease and a tendency to be scared. Is there anything you can tell us about this concept? 

It kinda reminds me of this optical illusion called the facial distortion effect – it's really interesting. A colleague of mine developed it. We're experts at looking at and recognizing patterns and especially faces. This is a really interesting phenomenon – look it up, the facial distortion effect on YouTube by Jason Tangun [CW: video contains very disturbing imagery]. If you just stare and compare human faces side by side, there's actually a lot of differences that you can look at. So, for example, how far apart are your eyes or how big are your eyes, where is your nose and so on. If you actually force yourself to compare side by side and then you go through these comparisons and see the differences, people's faces start to look grotesque.

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