By: A. Cordeiro
Scientifically, core memories are memories based on human emotions that return to consciousness during times when that emotion is primary. For example, in a moment in which you feel scared of something, the strongest memories of when you felt fear will become part of your conscious mind. “Inside Out”, a movie by Disney Pixar, introduces the idea of core memories to the audience in an interesting manner: when one experiences a moment or event that marks one’s behavioral traits, a core memory is created. In the movie, there are 5 main ‘personality islands’, in other words, specific sectors of grouped core memories which together make up different aspects of Riley’s, the main character’s, personality. When she is young her personality islands are family, friendship, goofball, hockey, and honesty.
As stated before, in the movie, Riley’s memories are separated into different personality islands. There are five main emotions Riley feels: anger, disgust, joy, fear, and sadness. The core memories, however, are presented as much brighter in her mind than normal memories, as those are the ones who helped shape her as a person. As Riley grows up, her personality richens, meaning she gains more specific personality islands. Most of Riley’s core memories are comprised of two emotions, for example when she moves from one city to another, we see her feel both happy and sad, and so that core memory combines both of those emotions. The main moral of the movie is to demonstrate to parents that all our emotions are important to forming who we are as people.
‘Inside out’ acts as a metaphor to how core memories create our personalities. However, the metaphor created, in terms of science, is not the best. For example, for Riley to view past memories of her life, all that has be done to recall the memory is for it to be touched by one of the emotions, which will trigger the memory to play as if it were a video on your phone. However, as you can imagine, this is not how the retrieval of memories works. The retrieval of memories is triggered by specific emotions, as shown in the movie, however it has been proven that memory recall is much more complicated than that, so much so, that the more you recall a memory, the less accurate it becomes. This is called memory distortion and it is quite ironic as the more you try to remember, the less you truly know.
One thing that the movie does get right is the emotional valence of core memories. When an emotion touches a memory in which another emotion was present, what Riley feels when she recalls that specific memory will be altered. From this, we can infer that when you recall a core memory in a different context or whilst feeling a drastically different emotion, your perception and link of that emotion will become different. Another thing the movie portrays well is that when you do not recall a memory for an extended period of time, that memory will be lost. In scientific terms, the nerve connections in your brain that help you recall that memory will weaken.
In closing, the truth is that your personality is not solely formed by specific core memories which represent different experiences in our life. Core memories are not the only building blocks of our personality. For example, when someone has amnesia, they do not lose who they are as person, which would occur if personality was solely compromised of core memories. An amnesiac will still like the same things and laugh at the same jokes. In reality, genetics are what mostly shape our personalities, not core memories.