Did you know that some of Hollywood’s popular celebrities majored in psychology? From athletes to actors to musicians, many have backgrounds in the study of the mind. Some of these include producer Jerry Bruckheimer, horror writer Wes Craven, singer Gloria Estefan, and comedian Jon Stewart. Others have even more lofty accomplishments to add to their resume—they have authored psychological studies.
- Lisa Kudrow – Lisa is known for her quirky roles as Phoebe Buffay on Friends and as Ursula on Mad About You. Lisa is the daughter of neurologist Lee N. Kudrow, who specialized in the treatment of migraine headaches, which both he and Lisa have suffered from. Lisa wrote an article with her dad, along with two others, regarding the relationship between handedness and headaches. They studied two groups of those suffering headaches and found that they did not differ significantly from each other or from the expected 10% frequency of left-handedness in males and females. Ironically, Lisa went on to star in a TV series called Web Therapy, where she plays an unorthodox psychologist.
- Colin Firth – Colin is an actor known for The King’s Speech and Love Actually. Because of his appearance on a BBC radio show, he authored a study that appeared in Current Biology about the neurological roots of political affiliations. Neuroscientists scanned the brains of politicians from the UK’s Conservative and Labour parties, Alan Duncan and Stephen Pound because Firth wanted to determine whether they had differences in their political leanings. Scientist Geraint Rees continued this research and found that liberal and conservative attitudes were associated with thicker parts of the brain. Researchers concluded that political leanings could be predicted with 72% accuracy by evaluating brain structure.
- Natalie Portman – Natalie is an actress known for V for Vendetta and Star Wars: Return of the Sith. Natalie majored in psychology while she was at Harvard, under the name Natalie Hershlag. She studied the neuroscience of child development and conducted a study with several prominent psychologists, investigating the link between frontal lobe development and visual knowledge in infants. They used various fMRI scans to determine which brain areas correspond to object permanence. The researchers discovered that frontal lobes kicked in when children develop the knowledge that hidden objects still exist. The study also demonstrated that near-infrared spectroscopy could be used to successfully study the brain development of very young children.
- Tim Duncan – Tim is a retired professional basketball player who played with the San Antonio Spurs for almost 20 years. He is a five-time NBA champion and a 15-time NBA All-Star. When he was an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, he and his professor, psychologist Mark Leary, coauthored a chapter in a book called Aversive Interpersonal Behaviors. It evaluated reactions to narcissistic behaviors. Duncan and Leary concluded that one or more of the following produces and maintains egotism: a sincere, but usually mistaken, belief that one is better than others; an attempt to create a positive impression on others; and a concerted effort to defend against deep-seated feelings of inferiority.
- John T. Teller – John is one half of the popular comedic magician duo Penn & Teller. They have appeared on numerous television shows, conducted many world tours, and written three New York Times best sellers. In 2008, John authored an article that appeared in Nature Reviews Neuroscience called “Attention and Awareness in Stage Magic: Turning Tricks Into Research Regarding How Magicians Can Contribute to the Study of Human Attention and Awareness.” The study indicated that “by studying magicians and their techniques, neuroscientists can learn powerful methods to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory. Such methods could be exploited to directly study the behavioural and neural basis of consciousness itself, for instance, through the use of brain imaging and other neural recording techniques.”