Pixar has a proud tradition of taking things that are incapable of expressing human emotion—robots, toys, rats, cars—and imagining a world where they can, in fact, feel. The studio’s most recent effort, the box-office topping and critically acclaimed Inside Out, takes viewers inside the head of a young girl named Riley, imagining what it would be like if her feelings could feel.
While Inside Out is ultimately an animated children’s movie, the perfectionists at Pixar (which is owned by the Walt Disney Company) still took the task of personifying emotions very seriously. To ensure they translated complex psychological issues accurately and clearly, they turned to two of the leading minds in the study of emotions, Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner. We recently had a chance to speak with Keltner, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who shared with us what the filmmakers got right, how it can change the way Westerners think about emotion, and what the inside of a lustful college student’s mind might look like.
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