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Recap / Community S1 E04: Social Psychology

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In another attempt to gain extra credit — and thus a greater chance of escaping Greendale — Annie manages to secure a place in Professor Duncan's experiment, in which the "Duncan Principle"note  is to be tested, by convincing Troy and Abed to volunteer to be test subjects. However, this leads to unforeseen factors the researchers did not anticipate, which ends up making it unclear who are the real test subjects.

Jeff and Shirley begin to bond over a recently-discovered mutual shared interest — making fun of Britta's new boyfriend, Vaughn. However, their mutual passion for gossip about him will end up creating rifts in their group.

The Community episode "Social Psychology" provides examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Annie furiously confronts Abed about his experiment-breaking behaviour.
    Annie: You sat. In a room. For twenty-six straight hours. Didn't that... bother you?
    Abed: Yeah, I was livid.
    Annie: So why didn't you leave?!
    Abed: Because you asked me to stay and you said we were friends.
  • Artistic License – Statistics: Duncan's Freak Out at the end of his experiment isn't really called for if one considers that a single statistical outlier, even one as extreme as Abed, doesn't invalidate the results of the experiment (putting aside the problems mentioned in No Control Group). In fact, in a sufficiently large sample, one would expect such outliers to occur. The Freak Out likely happened because watching Duncan fall victim to his own principle was both hilarious and satisfying.
    • Consider also that he's been awake for well over twenty-six hours watching a single person fail to react to anything and isn't exactly an exemplar of his profession to begin with.
    • Having an outlier may actually help his findings and publication potential, even. He can demonstrate not only how someone with normal psychology would act in according to the "Duncan Principle", but it would also allow him to demonstrate how people with abnormal psychology responded to the experiment.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Spanish blackboard is shown with Ken Jeong's Korean name written in bad hangul.
  • Erotic Dream: Shirley's last bit of gossip to Jeff is that Britta had a sexy dream about him.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: In-universe example, for the Indiana Jones movies.
    Annie: I just got the first three because...
    Annie and Abed: ... the fourth one blows!
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Discussed by Abed when he mentions that Chandler and Phoebe rarely had any stories together.
  • Giftedly Bad: Vaughn's poetry.
  • Gossipy Hens: Shirley and Jeff during the episode proper, Troy and Abed in The Tag.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: Duncan's experiment, in which the subjects are told to wait to be called to be tested, when in fact the waiting is the real test.
  • Hollywood Autism: Lampshaded after Abed has managed to sit perfectly still for twenty-six hours waiting in a room simply because Annie asked him to:
    Professor Duncan: It's you! It's your fault!
    Annie: But... you told me to bring subjects!
    Professor Duncan: Yeah, subjects! Not Rain Man!
  • I Resemble That Remark!: After ranting — at length — about a student evaluation feedback card he received, how hurtful and racist it was, and the lengths he went to in order to discover who the evaluator was:
    Señor Chang: [To Annie, very very creepily] Who's erratic and unstable now, Princess Gringa? [Kisses her on the forehead]note 
  • Jerkass Realization: Annie is left looking very uncomfortable after Troy's breakdown and Abed's What the Hell, Hero? speech following the experiment.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The researchers take a certain amount of smug pleasure and gloating entertainment in the suffering and eventual breakdowns of the focus group, so it's a fairly just comeuppance when Abed manages to turn the experiment back on them and reduce them to stress breakdowns after making them wait twenty-six hours for a reaction from him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Annie is left looking very shaken and guilty after Troy's breakdown and Abed's confrontation with her following the experiment.
  • No Control Group: If this had been a real experiment, the subjects would have been isolated from each other. Experiencing previous breakdowns may have influenced the breakdown of later subjects. Of course, neither the professor leading the experiment nor the institution in this case are exactly exemplars of scientific research, which makes it all the more hilarious.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Either Britta heard something more we didn't, or she's just pandering to Vaughn.
    Vaughn: I asked politely and the panda took his pants off.
    Britta: (exaggerated laughter) I never even knew that's what asexual meant.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Inadvertently, Prof. Duncan becomes the subject of the Duncan Principle.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Upon being informed that the experiment was going to start late, Chang immediately exploded in a violent, childish temper tantrum, involving throwing furniture and screaming "MOMMY!" Since the purpose of the experiment was to test how long people would put up with being delayed before exploding, and Chang literally didn't last more than a few seconds, his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Professor Duncan was quite pleased:
    Duncan: Houston, we have an idiot.note 
  • Sexiness Score: Professor Ducan assumes Annie is hitting on him and "lets her down" by giving her a Backhanded Compliment with "I'm not allowed to date students, even though you're an 8, which is a British 10."
  • Shaped Like Itself: Pierce says that his ear-noculars give him "sonic hearing." As Abed points out, "All hearing is sonic."
  • Shout-Out: Jeff: "Oh my God, my life is Degrassi High!"
  • Spoof Aesop:
    Pierce: You see Jeff. There was certain things man was not meant to hear. We were designed, by whatever entity you choose, to hear what's in this range and really this range alone because you know whose talking to us in this range? The people we love.
  • The Stoic: Upon being told just to sit and wait, while everyone else around him ends up throwing childish tantrums and storming out, Abed just calmly, without expressing any apparent emotion (as he tells her later, he was actually livid), sits and waits. For twenty-six hours.
    Professor Duncan: [Watching video footage of Abed sitting perfectly still, staring into space] ... Is it on pause?!
    Annie: Nope. That's just him.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Duncan starts doing this during his breakdown scene.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Professor Duncan assumes Annie is hitting on him before she even asks him anything, then immediately rates her an 8 (which is "a British 10"). This, too, was oddly not present in the DVD release (but is on the versions streaming on Netflix and Hulu and the TV version).
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Neither Troy nor Abed are pleased with Annie when they learn the true purpose of the experiment (although Abed is much better at concealing it). Annie ultimately looks very uncomfortable after Troy's breakdown during the experiment and Abed's subsequent confrontation with her.