Explore the psychological issues and problems of a film character in “Fatal Attraction”

Explore the psychological issues and problems of a film character in “Fatal Attraction”

Your main goal is to write a formal, APA-style paper in which you will explore the psychological issues and problems of a film character. A list of possible films from which you can choose is provided below. One character (typically the main character with a mental illness) should be your primary focus. Your paper may take the form of a case study in which you attempt to provide a comprehensive understanding of the character’s primary problems and how they came to develop them. Key elements of this assignment include utilizing and integrating multiple perspectives within abnormal psychology and discussing and citing research articles to support your analysis.


Structure of Your Final Paper

All papers must only include the following main sections. Your paper should only have the following centered headings in order: Assessment Plan, Diagnostic Impressions, Case Conceptualization, Treatment Plan, and Discussion. You do not need a heading for the Introduction section. You may create personalized subheadings within the main headings that fit your paper and themes.


1.       Introduction

  1. Provide a brief summary of the film and the central character. This should set up the rest of the paper and let me know that you have indeed watched the film. It needs to be thorough enough so the plot is clear, but focus on what’s
  2. Introduce the main themes (and arguments) that will be explored (and justified) in the rest of the paper. Themes might include the role of specific factors in the person’s mental health difficulties (family, emotion regulation) and should be briefly introduced.


2.       Assessment Plan

  1. Formulate a plan for conducting additional assessment of the
  2. When considering the psychological problems of the character that you observed in the film, what aspects or factors are important to know but were not presented or discussed in the film? Focus on what would help you better understand, diagnose, conceptualize, and treat the character. For example, perhaps the frequency or onset of symptoms were not discussed. Or maybe you don’t know much about the character’s family
  3. Citing articles would be helpful here to show evidence that what you are assessing is indeed important. For example, if you want to know whether the character has a family history of bipolar disorder, provide a citation that shows that family history of bipolar disorder is related to the type of problem your character is
  4. Be specific. State concretely the information you would want, why it could be important, and how you would obtain that information. Discuss your methods. For



example, state the titles of self-report or interview measures you would use. They should be evidence-based.  Make sure to cite them too!


3.       Diagnostic Impressions

  1. Provide provisional and differential diagnoses (and justification). The following three sections are required subheadings within the Diagnostic Impressions
  2. Provisional Diagnosis. Which diagnosis or diagnoses would you give? Why? Please describe them and your justification for giving them by connecting specific character behaviors to each DSM-V criteria. Do this most thoroughly for the primary diagnosis. Do this systematically by stating the disorder, going through each symptom criteria of the disorder that the character meets (state the criteria), and providing supporting evidence from the film in the form of specific character actions, statements, and emotions. You must show that they meet the necessary criteria of the primary diagnosis. Summarize secondary diagnoses more
  3. Differential Diagnosis. Which two diagnoses did you consider but rule out? Why? [Note: if you did not consider any other diagnoses, please describe at least two diagnoses that could have fit the client’s presentation and explain why you would rule them out]. Your reasoning must be clear and sensible. Look at the diagnostic criteria and explain which of the criteria is not met by the character. Common reasons for ruling out a diagnosis are that the duration of symptoms may not be met or that the symptoms are better accounted for by another diagnosis. Do not rule out a diagnosis because you don’t have enough information from the
  4. Four Ds. For your character’s primary diagnosis/problem, discuss how it fits within each of the Four Ds (dysfunction, personal distress, etc.). That is, how do you know the problem is really a problem? Is it dysfunctional? Is it distressing? Explain how by noting specific examples from the film. If it doesn’t fit within one of the Ds, explain why. Identify which of the Ds is most related to the


4.       Case Conceptualization

  1. Explain how your character came to develop their presenting
  2. Organize and integrate case details to support your explanation of the presenting problems, i.e. the underlying dynamics/factors in the case. This is where you will provide your arguments as to factors influencing the client’s problems and evidence from the film to support your arguments. For example, how might the client’s family contribute to the development or maintenance of the problem? Or maybe genetics and biology played a major role?
  3. You can describe factors that contributed to the initial development of the character’s main diagnosis and/or factors that contributed to the current state of their presenting problems as displayed in the
  4. Look in your text to get inspiration as to the factors typically involved in the disorder. But make sure to investigate further by finding journal
  5. Approach the case from at least 2-3 perspectives and theoretical orientations (e.g., biological, cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral, family systems, developmental psychopathology). Briefly describe the main tenets of the orientation and then apply it to explain the development of your character’s major psychological problems. Be thorough: provide examples showing how the theory/approach applies to the character. (Note: it may be difficult to approach the case from multiple perspectives.  Don’t “stretch” too much so it doesn’t make )



  1. Should inform your treatment plan – i.e. don’t write about treatment here, but make sure contributing factors you cite here are targeted in the treatment recommendations


5.       Treatment Plan

  1. Present a hypothetical treatment plan for your
  2. It should logically extend from your
  3. The best work here will show discussion of specific treatment goals and techniques tailored to meet your character’s needs. Be thorough and descriptive in explaining how you would apply specific strategies in treating their presenting problems. Explain your work. For example, instead of saying that you would provide cognitive-behavioral therapy, discuss the specific cognitions and behaviors you would target and how you would target


6.       Discussion

  1. Provide a very brief conclusion and summary of the highlights of your
  2. You have flexibility to address issues from the film you think are important, but return back to and expand on your main themes from the
  3. Your discussion should address the film’s portrayal of mental illness and health by addressing the following questions:
    1. Is mental health stigma present in the film? How much and how so? How do other people react to/around your character?
    2. Is the portrayal of mental illness and/or treatment fair and realistic or is it exaggerated, sensationalized, or disrespectful? How so?
  • How might the film’s portrayal affect viewer attitudes toward mental illness?


Finding and Using Research Articles

  1. You will need to cite and integrate at least five articles from peer-reviewed scholarly journals into your final
  2. For example, if your character has depression and parents who are very harsh toward him, you may want to discuss research in your case conceptualization showing the role of parenting in childhood depression (as long as the research is relevant to the character’s experience). Or you may want to support your treatment plan section by discussing findings showing the effectiveness of a treatment for a specific population
  3. The majority of your references must be from the past 10
  4. With few exceptions, all of your references should be relevant articles from peer-reviewed journals. Exceptions may include a very relevant article from a respected periodical, such as the New York Times. These should be used sparingly and purposefully. For example, you may wish to highlight how a certain mental health problem has gained attention in the mass media, such as citing a Time Magazine article on social
  5. Do not cite from websites or the Kring textbook. If you need to provide basic information (e.g., DSM-5 criteria), cite the primary source, such as the DSM-5 itself (make sure to cite/reference it properly – google the reference!) or an article that presents the
  6. You will need to conduct literature searches to find articles that you will highlight in your paper. While you may be tempted to use Google or similar search engines, it will be faster for you to conduct your literature searches via academic search
    1. For example, you can access many articles through the MSU library website at montclair.edu/library. In Search Our Resources, click Articles and enter keywords to facilitate your search.



  1. Another popular search engine is Pubmed (pubmed.com).
  2. When you find articles helpful to writing your paper, you can also look in reference sections of those articles to identify other articles to
  3. You may also look through online issues of important journals in the field. Relevant journals include the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Clinical Psychology Review, Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Depression and Anxiety, Behaviour Research and Therapy, and Addictive


How do I prepare my topic proposal?

Using an outline format, provide an overview of the film and main ideas/themes you will explore, consistent with the components described above. Your proposal (2-3 pages) should provide a clear understanding of the structure of your paper by identifying the main points in each section. You should think about how you would like to organize your paper, especially in terms of the order of information you will present. It may be helpful to identify additional subheadings that you will use in your paper to provide organization.  Also, prepare the proposal as if I have not watched your film, which means you will need to be as clear and thorough as possible.


Provide at least three references that you intend to use in your paper. All references should be from peer-reviewed journal articles. In providing a list of references, please highlight for me the sections of your paper in which you will discuss these articles. It will be important for me to see that you have read through these articles already and have a clear understanding of how you will discuss them in your paper.


You should receive full credit for the proposal if you follow the above guidelines. Ways to lose points on the proposal include providing fewer than three references, not including main sections in your outline, and if it feels that you did not put forth sufficient effort.


Do Not Plagiarize!

While I wish it was that simple, you MUST review the following website on plagiarism before submitting this assignment: http://www.montclair.edu/provost/faculty-handbook/academic- policies/requirements/academic-dishonesty/. This provides an overview of the cheating and plagiarism guidelines at MSU. Plagiarism on this assignment will lead to an automatic zero and possibly more significant consequences, depending on the circumstances.


Additionally, please review the “Avoiding Plagiarism” PDF file posted on Canvas to familiarize yourself with types of plagiarism so you may avoid them. Some of these are obvious (e.g., reusing a paper you submitted for another class; stealing an entire paper from someone else), but others are more subtle (e.g., not putting quotes around a sentence borrowed from another paper, even if you cited the other paper) and possibly inadvertent.  As a result, you need to be aware!


Finally, your papers will be automatically run through Turnitin upon submission through Canvas.



J Follow APA Style, Please! J


Psychology papers follow a specific set of formatting guidelines. This assignment is no different. Therefore, you must use APA style for this assignment or risk losing points. You may have the urge to use your own stylistic choices but avoid it; instead, follow the guidelines.


All general formatting, title pages, running headers, headings, subheadings, citations, and reference pages should follow APA style. Note: Do not provide an abstract, footnotes, or endnotes. For a great resource, review the guidelines here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/. I have also uploaded to Canvas an example APA style paper that you can use as a guide.


Here are some of the essentials:

  1. You must use 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, and double- spaced text. Include a header with the page number on every page as shown on the website.


  1. Title Page. See the formatting explained on the above website. (Note: You should create a more interesting title than simply “Final Paper” or the title of your film. It can include the film title but should be more descriptive.). Start a running header with page


  1. Headings/Subheadings. These are crucial for making your paper more organized. There is a particular format for headings and subheadings depending on how many levels of subheadings you have. This will affect the placement of the headings (i.e., whether it is centered or not) and their appearance (i.e., whether you bold, italicize, or underline them). Visit this link for clear instructions: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/16/


  1. In-Text Citations. Remember, you must cite all sources! You will be predominantly citing journal articles, and there are two ways to do
    1. You can cite a journal article within the sentence itself
      1. Example: Berry and Pennebaker (1993) reported that emotional expression was linked to health in a sample of
    2. You can cite a journal article at the end of the sentence
      1. Example: It has been reported that emotional expression is linked to health in a sample of undergraduates (Berry & Pennebaker, 1993).
    3. Note the differences in terms of the “and” and the parentheses. You should also visit this link, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/, to find rules for citing articles with two authors, three to five authors, and more than five


  1. You must have a References page at the end of your paper. This should be the last page of your paper AND it should be on its own page, meaning it should NOT start on the same page as the conclusion of your paper. Follow this link for how your reference page should look: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/05/. Follow this link for how the references themselves should look: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/06/
  2. Here is a general example of a reference:

Berry, D. S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1993). Nonverbal and verbal emotional expression and health. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 59(3), 11-19.



Tips for Successful Writing Assignments in Psychology


  1. Be Clear
    1. Clarity in writing means being concrete, precise, and
    2. You may understand what you mean, but the reader may not. Your goal should be for the reader (me) to understand your writing the first time
    3. Orient the reader by providing good explanations for various psychology terms, especially when important to your paper. For example, if you have a paragraph on rumination, make sure to define/describe


2.       Be Concise

  1. Make every word count. Remove any redundancies or unnecessary
  2. Avoid long-winded
  3. For additional tips: http://grammar.about.com/od/directness/a/clutter.htm


3.       Be Detail-Oriented

  1. Avoid mistakes. One is not a problem, but a pattern of spelling mistakes can cause the reader to question the quality of the entire paper.
  2. Spacing, Indentation, and Punctuation Placement. Be consistent!

Example: If you indent six spaces at the start of the first paragraph, be sure to continue that in all subsequent paragraphs.

c.       Commas.

  1. Read about correct and incorrect comma usage. Here’s a site with some basics: http://www.wikihow.com/Sample/Proper-Punctuation
  2. For the most part, students use commas too sparingly. This results in run-on sentences that are difficult to follow. For example, commas must come after introductory clauses (such as earlier in this sentence), in addition to before new clauses (such as earlier in this sentence).

Example: Instead of “When she gave her speech she froze several times but her classmates still applauded,” write “When she gave her speech, she froze several times, but her classmates still applauded.” The latter is much easier to follow.

  • If the subject of the sentence changes in a sentence, you must use a comma. Example: Instead of “John laughed and Julie smiled,” write “John laughed, and Julie ”
  1. If the subject of the sentence doesn’t change, do not use a comma. In fact, you do not need to repeat the subject’s name in the sentence if introducing another

Example: Instead of “John laughed, and he smiled,” write “John laughed and smiled.”

  1. All numbers ten and below should be spelled out in full. (Exception: All numbers which start a sentence must be spelled out in full)

Example: Instead of “John is a 9-year-old boy” or “Mary has 2 brothers,” you should write “John is a nine-year-old boy” and “Mary has two brothers.”

  1. Abbreviations. Must only be used after you have written out the full word once in your paper and put the abbreviation in



Example: You may wish to abbreviate Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy as CBT in your papers. When you first mention it, spell it out as Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In all later occurrences, you can write CBT.

  1. Avoid “and” Sentences. Avoid repeatedly joining sentences with the conjunction “and,” especially when they are unrelated, and it would be just as good to use separate

Example: Instead of “John walks his dog everyday, and he likes to read,” write “John walks his dog everyday.  He also likes to read.”

  1. J A little perfectionism never hurt anyone J


4.       Be Formal

  1. Sophistication in writing relies on correct grammar. However, your tone of voice

also matters.

Example: Rather than writing that “Jacobs et al. (2003) did research to get at the causes,” instead say “Jacob et al. (2003) conducted a study to explore factors contributing to…”

b.      Use Active Voice.

  1. Instead of writing “Mary would often give Joe angry looks,” write “Mary often gave Joe angry ”
  2. Instead of writing “They were able to identify two examples,” write “They identified two ”
  • Instead of “John was the one who took the lead,” write “John took the ”
  1. “Reported” Verbs. In describing research findings, you can rely on a few key verbs, such as reported, found, demonstrated, showed, indicated, and
    1. You can begin the sentence with the author(s), such as in “Jones et al. (2003) reported that…” or “Studies (e.g., Jones et al., 2003) have found that….”
    2. Or you can cite the author at the end of the sentence, such as “Stress has been consistently linked with health problems (Jones et al. 2003).”


5.       Be Organized

  1. Use headings and subheadings to provide structure. Be systematic. Make sure that appropriate information goes in appropriate
  2. Use opening topic sentences to orient the
  3. Use transitional phrases within and between paragraphs to increase flow, particularly if the topic changes. Starting with these phrases can help: Additionally, Also, As a result, Consequently, Furthermore, In addition, Instead, However, Moreover, Similarly, Therefore,
  4. Think about separating your paragraphs Never let a page go by without at least one paragraph break.


6.       Be Thoughtful

  1. Justify Your Impressions. If you provide an opinion or impression, you must provide sufficient evidence to back it

b.      Avoid Absolutes and Extremes

  1. Unless there is 100% certainty behind a statement, stay clear of absolute statements. Word like never, always, everything, and totally should probably not appear in your



  1. For example, instead of “James et al. showed that is caused by stress,” write “James et al., showed that                           is associated with ”
  1. Avoid “Causal” Statements. In general, do not use the word “cause.” It implies that there is one “cause” for a problem, which we know is not the case in most areas of health and psychology. So, instead of “causes of infertility in large elephants,” write “contributing factors to infertility in large ”



  1. Use interesting and relevant quotes from the film when it provides evidence for an argument or
  2. However, avoid quoting directly from any articles. Use your own
  3. The main time to quote from an article is when the statement is so technical/precise than a paraphrase would take away from the point. Still, try to avoid this. And do not use long quotes from
  4. Punctuation (periods, commas, question marks, etc.) should be placed BEFORE the end quote, not

Example: Write “John threw the ball.” instead of “John threw the ball”.

  1. Integrate the quote in the

Example: Write John said that he “loves sports.” rather than John said that, “I love sports.”


8.       Avoid “I” Statements

  1. Do not bring yourself into this paper. This is important because a) it will make your papers more concise and b) your papers should focus on the film character and the research and not make readers think about the
  2. For example, instead of “I found an article by Jones et al. that…,” write “Jones et reported that…”
  3. Similarly, instead of “I think James exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia…,” simply write “James appeared to exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia…” (note how writing “appeared to” softens the statement so you are not providing a definitive conclusion)


9.       Proofread

  1. Read over your work at least twice. Read it out loud once. Review clarity, conciseness, punctuation, grammar,
  2. It is even better if someone else can review your work



Possible Films to Choose


The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Sybil (1976)

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Rain Man (1988) The Fisher King (1991) Clean, Shaven (1993)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) Safe (1995)

Shine (1996)

As Good As It Gets (1997) Girl Interrupted (1999)

A Beautiful Mind (2001) I Am Sam (2001)

The Hours (2002)

Spider (2002)

Matchstick Men (2003)

Canvas (2006)

Lars and the Real Girl (2007) Grey Gardens (2009)

Black Swan (2010)

Melancholia (2011)