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The Science Behind the Emotions in Inside Out 2

For National Geographic, Tony Hale (who played Fear in Inside Out 2) talks to psychologist and author Dr. Lisa Damour about Pixar’s new film, her role as a consultant for the filmmakers, and what science says about the emotions in the movie. From The Kid Should See This:

By blending Pixar’s storytelling with scientific expertise, the Inside Out films and this discussion help make the complex topic of emotional development approachable and more familiar. They offer viewers of all ages vocabulary to better understand and express their feelings, while normalizing the intricate emotional experiences we encounter throughout life.

I have heard a lot of good things about Damour’s books from other parents, particularly Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents.

Vox also has a really interesting article on the science of the emotions of Inside Out 2, with quotes from Damour and emotion scientist Dacher Keltner.

One of the things that happens when people become teenagers is that their brain becomes more sophisticated, and it allows for self-conscious emotions. Before age 13, kids are concrete in their thinking. They can’t always see things from another perspective. Then around 13 or 14, the ability to picture oneself on the outside, to imagine different scenarios, arrives as a result of brain development.

With that arrival comes the ability to be embarrassed and to imagine what other people think of you. Or to have envy, to want something somebody else has and to want to know why you don’t have it. Ennui is so funny and wonderful and really maps onto the natural disdain and over-it-ness teenagers can have for everything. Then, of course, anxiety is a major player in this movie. What anxiety requires is the ability to imagine and anticipate. Fear is our response to the threat right in front of us, whereas anxiety is picturing things that might happen.

See also The Making of “Inside Out 2” episode of Damour’s podcast.

As the parent of two teens and also as someone who perhaps remembers a little too much what it felt like to be a teenager, I found Inside Out 2’s portrayal of the emotions (and how to manage them) to be really convincing. (via the kid should see this)

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