Monday, July 06, 2015

The science of 'Inside-Out"'

Sure enough - after last Monday's post pointing to Anthony Lane's review of 'Inside-Out' and noting how accurately the movie's depiction of goings-on inside an 11-year old girl's head corresponded to current neuroscience accounts of how our brains work - today's New York Times has an op-ed piece by psychologists Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman, who in fact were scientific advisors to writer and director Pete Docter. They grumble a bit that Docter decided that the story could only handle five or six internal actors (Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy)rather than the more full array currently being studied by researchers like Keltner and others. (I've debated taking myself to the theater to watch the whole movie surrounded by a bunch of 8-13 year olds, and discover, short of doing that, that simply entering Inside Out in the YouTube search window gets you to brief video clips from different parts of the movie depicting its core animations of memory, the control room, etc.) A few clips from the Keltner and Ekman Op-Ed:
...the movie’s portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion. First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations...But the truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation...Second, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — our social lives. Studies have found, for example, that emotions structure (not just color) such disparate social interactions as attachment between parents and children, sibling conflicts, flirtations between young courters and negotiations between rivals...Other studies find that it is anger (more so than a sense of political identity) that moves social collectives to protest and remedy injustice. Research that one of us has conducted has found that expressions of embarrassment trigger others to forgive when we’ve acted in ways that momentarily violate social norms.

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