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|Kate, Kay, and the Single Ladies, Part 1: Different...
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|Emma Stone Reveals History of Panic Attacks
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|How the GGSC Helped Turn Pixar “Inside Out”
||When UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner attended the Hollywood premiere of the new Pixar movie Inside Out—which opens today in theaters nationwide—he was thrilled to see children running around the purple (not red) carpet yelling, “I’m Fear,” “I’m Sadness” or “I want to be Anger.”
Kids typically don’t like to identify, let alone broadcast, difficult feelings, including the ones that loom large inside the head of the movie’s central character, 11-year-old Riley, as she struggles with her family’s relocation from Minnesota to San Francisco.
So a movie like Inside Out, which explains how positive and negative emotions can bump up against each other and yet also team up to solve a problem, can be empowering for both children and adults, as Keltner witnessed at its debut.
“I hope this movie becomes part of our cultural understanding of what it means to be a child and what it means to be a human being and to grapple with these emotions,” Keltner says.
An expert on the science of emotions, Keltner served as a consultant on the movie, visiting Pixar’s Emeryville campus a half-dozen times to explain the basis, physiology, and purpose of emotions, and exchanging many emails.
“They were really interested in what happens with memory. How does my sadness right now color my recollection of my childhood? Keltner says.
The insights that Keltner and his mentor, psychologist Paul Ekman, provided helped to flesh out the animated personifications of Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, Anger, by Lewis Black, Fear, by Bill Hader, Disgust, by Mindy Kaling and Sadness, by Phyllis Smith.
Video courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios
Filmmakers grappled with the purpose of sadness, but Keltner set them straight.
“In our culture, we’re tough on sadness, but it’s a powerful trigger for seeking comfort and bonding,” Keltner says. “Meanwhile, anger is often about the sense of being treated unfairly, and can be a motivator for social change.”
Keltner met Inside Out director Pete Docter, who also directed Pixar’s Up and Monsters Inc., when their daughters were at various stages of puberty. They bonded over the travails of parenting during those volatile years.
“When they get to their preteens and early teens, it’s like the world crashes down on them,” Keltner says. “One of the most precipitous drops in happiness occurs around 13.”
Their discussions eventually evolved into Inside Out, the results of which have exceeded Keltner’s wildest expectations: “I was blown away,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”
Keltner, who has taught psychology at Berkeley since 1996, posits that everyone has a “signature emotion”—just like Inside Out’s Riley, who leans toward joy—but it evolves over the course of a lifetime.
In Keltner’s case, for example, the signature emotion during his youth was contempt, he says, which turned to fear and anxiety in adulthood, and has more recently evolved into compassion. Eventually, he’d like his signature emotion to be contentment.
As for how all the emotions roiling in Riley’s head coordinate with her intrinsic sense of joy, he says: “You’re just going to have to watch the movie and find out.”
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|Gratitude for Dad
||Parents of teenagers often tell me that they’re excited to read my new book The Gratitude Diaries because they’re hoping to get some tips about making their own children more grateful. I understand the problem. A lot of parents would like to hear “thank you” just a little more often.
Teens and millennials (those in their early 20s) don’t mean to be ungrateful. But as Yale psychologist Yarrow Dunham told me, kids often code what parents do as obligation. When children believe that parents are supposed to take care of them, they’re not in a mindset to be grateful to them.
In a national survey on gratitude that I oversaw for the John Templeton Foundation, young people aged 18-24 were less likely to express gratitude than any other group. While an overall 48 percent of respondents expressed gratitude on a regular basis (still a mediocre number), that plunged to 35 percent for the millennials.
When asked to talk about gratitude, young people can recognize that they are lucky to have parents who drove them to soccer games, supported their science projects, and perhaps paid for college. But many of the millennials are also conflicted. During focus groups with millennials, a young woman named Emma told me that the gratitude she feels for what her parents have given her “gets smothered with guilt and annoyance that I have to be reliant on them. I feel the guilt a lot more than the gratitude.”
As parents, we help our children because we love them—not because we want to be thanked. But the kids worry that expressing gratitude means admitting that they can’t handle things on their own. A recent college graduate like Emma may want to be independent enough to handle rent and car payments—and when she can’t, she resents having to rely on her parents. Not exactly an emotional set-up for appreciating your parents.
But there are ways around it. Parents can inspire gratitude by giving their children a more expansive view of the world and their place in it. Kids may be naturally self-centered, but if they are encouraged to step outside of themselves and help someone in need, they gain a new, more grateful, view.
Talking about gratitude is also a great gift to give children, and simply encouraging them to look on the bright side gives kids a new view. When my children were young, we regularly ate dinner together, and when we sat down on Friday nights, I asked everyone at the table to share something good that had happened that week. My younger son Matt, all grown up now, recently told me that he still takes Friday nights to stop whatever he’s doing and find a reason to be grateful.
Gratitude isn’t just a feeling, it’s an action. Expressing gratitude by writing in a journal, taking a photo, or shooting a video creates a lasting impression that can bring more gratitude into the world—for children and adults. So for this Father’s Day, I teamed up with the impressive educators at the New York Film Academy. Inspired by my book, they sponsored a competition inviting young filmmakers to create gratitude video for their dads.
Ninety-eight talented young people around the world entered the competition with touching, heartwarming, and very grateful videos for Father’s Day. The top winner, 15-year old Camila Hernandez from Mexico City, thanks her dad for inspiring her, teaching her, and making her laugh. And she does it with this fresh, creative approach:
The first-runner up, a young woman from Spain, created a music video for her dad with an original song describing him as her hero and best friend.
And perhaps most touchingly of all, Samuel Ammisah of Ghana proved that gratitude for a parent thrives around the world. “Happy Fathers Day means more than have a happy day…It means in my heart you’ll forever stay,” Samuel says in the video. “Thank you dad is all I want to say.” And that ‘thank you’ is more than enough.
Learn more about the Father’s Day video winners!
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|After years of conflict, huge project could help scientists decipher the brain
||They said it was crazy – and in truth the European Commission’s billion-euro plan to build a computer model of the human brain appears to have been too ambitious. But after years of controversy and dispute, many neuroscientists believe that the Human Brain Project may no longer be doomed to failure. Not only have the [...]
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|Study: Gamers ‘shielded’ from perceptual interference, enhancing their learning abilities
||Research surrounding video games is often controversial, but a recent study shows the positive role gamers’ perceptual strengths have on their learning ability. Researchers from Brown University’s Laboratory for Cognitive and Perceptual Learning have published findings in PLOS ONE suggesting people who play video games on a regular basis are not only better and faster perceptual [...]
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