It's so hard to buy for the psychologist, isn't it? First of all, research psychologists are satisfied with so little in their lives. A bit of bran mash, the latest version of WordPerfect, perhaps interactions with a group of eager Psi Chi members once a month, and a few bucks from the college. Who could ask for more? And for clinical psychologists: well, they seem to have everything. Their own brilliant clinical insights into their own lives has clearly meant they derive virtually complete satisfaction from their inner strength. They are either in practice, which means they already have their BMW (although due to managed care, it is leased), or they're in academia, which means that they have forsaken the BMW for the joys of sitting with students and helping them self-actualize by arguing about half-credit for multiple-choice questions.
And psychology students are no easier! For graduate students, seeing their professors so happy with the day's data is more than enough compensation for the 16 hours. And undergraduates simply do not need gifts, for two reasons. First, they have no place left in their room to put them. Second, gifts will not help them get into graduate school.
But the holidays are upon us! And we all know of roommates we care about, graduate students who need a lift, and professors who would appreciate a brib--, er, a reminder of the indelible influence they have over students' lives. . . .
So, as a public service (and as a way to look busy typing this in our offices when our colleagues are developing lectures), we offer some suggestions for what to get psychologists for the holidays. Before we start, we should make clear that we are in no way advocating that you give gifts to your current professors; that really would run the risk of looking like a bribe. This could lead to serious academic consequences for you, including expulsion from the college and a professional career restricted to holding national office in a major American political party.
It is also very important not to give gifts to your current therapist. Here bribery is not the issue; rather, time and expense need to be considered. When you give the therapist a gift, you will likely spend an extra three sessions talking about what the gift means. This adds considerably to the cost of the gift, and no therapist is worth that much. So, for current therapists, we advocate a system of gift management, in which you can give your therapist a gift, but only for six sessions.
Oddly enough, we can't think of any problems with sending gifts to columnists in national magazines of honor societies. . . .
As you know, psychologists and psychology students are a varied bunch, so unless you want to turn the page again to see the new officers of the Psi Chi chapter at the State University of Northern South Minnesota at Boise, bear with us while we run down some of our favorite (that is, our only) ideas.
Just like toys that are recommended for kids of certain ages, some gifts are meaningful only to people in certain stages of their professional life. For example publications always make nice gifts, but the type depends:
-- Undergraduate student: a publication in an undergraduate research journal
-- Graduate student: a publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
-- Assistant professor: a publication in Psychological Bulletin
-- Associate professor: a publication, anywhere
-- Full professor: a letter to the editor of their local newspaper will do.
Here are some other gifts:
-- Undergraduate student: 50 extra points on the GRE
-- Graduate student: 50 extra minutes of free time
-- Assistant professor: 50 extra points on teaching evaluations
-- Associate professor: 50 extra dollars off the mortgage payment
-- Full professor: 50 extra square feet in the mountain cabin
The APA Publication Manual is always in the best of taste as a gift. But just as Monopoly has come out with Deluxe and Anniversary editions, be aware of the new versions of everybody's favorite stylebook:
-- Undergraduate student: The original 4th edition is good enough.
-- Graduate student: The Idiot's Guide to APA Style
-- For a despised dissertation advisor: The Really Big Idiot's Guide to APA Style
-- Assistant professor: The edition with plastic-coated pages to guard against excessive wear
-- Associate professor: The leather-bound edition to put on one's shelf. This is a real bargain, because there actually is nothing printed on the pages.
-- Full professor: Get them the 2nd edition to replace the one they're currently using.
Tests are a big part of the lives of many psychologists, so we offer the following suggestions:
-- Undergraduate student: A guide to multiple-choice tests
-- Graduate student: A WAIS-III kit
-- Assistant professor: A Strong Interest Inventory, just in case the tenure thing doesn't work out
-- Associate professor: A guide to multiple-choice tests
-- Full professor: A kit to test the pH level of the water in the swimming pool
Let's turn our attention (if we have any left) to specialty areas. Psychologists in different specialties hardly talk to each other, so they rarely need to be familiar with gifts that would appeal to those with a range of interests. Thus, we offer a few ideas:
For social psychologists:
-- A shock generator
-- A computer dating application (preferably blank)
-- A ticket to a violent soccer game
-- A pad to record observations of violence at the soccer game
For behavioral psychologists:
-- Gift certificates, in the form of tokens
-- A computer with an albino mouse
-- Pigeon toes
For Freudian psychologists:
-- A couch
-- Couch potato chips
-- A chip off the old block
For cognitive psychologists:
-- A repressed memory
-- (for the musical cognitive psychologist:) A memory drum
-- A year's supply of three-letter words
-- A gift certificate to the echoic store
For practicing clinical psychologists:
-- A subpoena to testify in the area of expertise of one's choice
-- A continuing education workshop on the Humor-Impaired Personality
-- (for your best, dearest friend, for whom a gift's price is no object:) A day's worth of malpractice insurance
For developmental psychologists:
-- Any toy (This is not because they do research using toys, but because they go into developmental because it gives them a non-embarrassing reason to play with all the toys they would have liked to have had as children.)
-- A fixation in their stage of choice
-- A secure attachment
For research psychologists:
-- A sample
-- A grant to study the effect of Viagra
-- Two reviews of the same paper that recommend the same thing
-- An understanding editor
We hope (against hope) that these suggestions have been helpful, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a safe, healthy, self-actualizing 1999.
Fall 1998 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 52-53), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1998, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.