Psychology Movie Review

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Psychology Movie Review

Psychology Movie Review


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Psychology Movie Review

Inside out came out in 2014 and is an animation movie about Riley, 11 years of age who moved to San Francisco from Minnesota with her family (Amazon, 2015). The movie does not, however, revolve around Riley and her parents as the lead characters but their primary feelings. These emotions include Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. These feelings indicate what the mind of a person in middle childhood who struggles with a new environment, away from people she had become acquainted with, miles from her hockey league, and having to pretend to be happy for her parents might be like.

What makes this movie really influential to the field of psychology is its accuracy to clinical, developmental, and cognitive psychology. The five emotions the film depicts consist of all the scientifically validated universal emotions except surprise. These emotions are a result of the work of Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist and scientist who traveled across the globe studying the presence of these emotions in various cultures (Hong, Chalup, & King, 2013). He confirmed the presence of these emotions as presented by similar and case-specific facial expressions. This is not the first time Paul Ekman’s work appears in film as it has in “Lie to Me,” a popular television series.

The movie discusses another concept beyond emotions. This concept is the transfiguration of short to long-term memory. Once a memory appears relevant to a human being or has recurred severally, the brain signals dopamine and glutamate to encode it into long-term memory. Other concepts visited in this movie, although briefly include psychological variations associated with approaching puberty, family psychology, stressors, deductive and inductive reasoning, and many more.

Joy appears to be the leader among Riley’s emotions and has the task of keeping the rest in check but still maintaining the idea that all are important and serves a crucial function. She outlines the role of each emotion; fear keeps Riley away from danger by visualizing worst-case scenarios, anger serves the purpose to protect her from others and gives her the opportunity to be better at hockey, Disgust keeps her away from intoxicants and poison while Joy as her name suggests keeps her happy. However, Joy does not consider Sadness important and attempts to keep him far from Riley, shutting out this feeling by whatever means. She even draws boundaries on the floor to keep her away from any of Riley’s memories, like she says, “to avoid tainting them.” The woes of Sadness go beyond go beyond Joy as Riley’s mother puts additional pressure on her to put on a smile for her father. Without her knowledge, Riley’s mother implies that being sad for leaving Minnesota is not ideal, and she is necessitated to put on an act in support of her father.

Unfortunately, Joy’s good intentions can only go as far, and Riley does not obtain the support she so frantically requires to adjust to this new setting. As a matter of fact, Riley initially displays signs of an Adjustment Disorder, which include a depressed mood. She draws back from her family and old friends, tries to run away, and even misses school. By suppressing sadness and pretending she was fine, the little girl ends up being angry, irritable, and starts experiencing anxiety. The anger and irritability become evident in her fights with her parents and her close friend before eventually withdrawing to her personal space and shutting down altogether. In fact, her Adjustment Disorder appears to manifest into a full-blown major Depressive Episode. (The word “appears” is used because in order to have a precise diagnosis of a Depressive Episode, the symptoms need to persist for at least two weeks or more, and the movie does not indicate how long these actually lasted.)

This movie sends various messages to viewers, with the most important being that all our emotions are essential. They all serve a crucial function, and we cannot make the choice to feel some and not others. If people suppress sadness like in the case of Riley, they also numb joy without their knowledge. When a person is sad, the facial expressions send signals to the people around that they need help. Interestingly enough, the people that come to the aid of a sad person by providing compassion experience a bitter-sweet feeling of concern resulting from the activities of the insula part of the brain as well as the anterior cingulate cortex and other organs. They also experience the warmth of the heart as the hormone oxytocin is released (Shamay-Tsoory & Abu-Akel, 2016).


Amazon. (2015). Inside Out [Video file]. Retrieved from, K., Chalup, S. K., & King, R. A. (2013, April). A component based approach for classifying the seven universal facial expressions of emotion. In 2013 IEEE Symposium on Computational Intelligence for Creativity and Affective Computing (CICAC) (pp. 1-8). IEEE.

Shamay-Tsoory, S. G., & Abu-Akel, A. (2016). The social salience hypothesis of oxytocin. Biological psychiatry, 79(3), 194-202.

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