An “Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar) Study Guide: Understanding Emotions

UPDATE: Activities, art therapy, and questions for helping children (K-8) understand emotions with “Inside Out” is now available (click here.)

Inside Out” by Disney/Pixar is in theaters now. As a therapist, I loved seeing emotions brought to life. I loved seeing concepts such as personality, memory and depression illustrated. I especially appreciated the message that all feelings have value. The movie inspired me to write up a list of questions for understanding emotions better. I was thinking primarily of the teens and young adults I see in therapy, but I think anyone can benefit from them. Please download a free printable copy of my Inside Out Study Guide: Understanding Emotions.*

Inside Out Study Guide for Teens: Understanding Emotions

Spoiler Alert: These questions will give away some of the plot line of the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to print or save them to read and answer afterwards.

An “Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar) Study Guide: Understanding Emotions. Written by Abigail Burd, LCSW

  1. When we meet Riley, most of the time Joy is in charge of her thoughts and personality. Which emotion(s) do you feel most often?
  1. Riley and her family go through a lot of changes when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Have you ever gone through a big transition?
  1. How are the glowing balls, or “core memories” made? What are yours?
  1. What do the core memories have to do with Riley’s personality?
  1. When Sadness touches one of the happy core memories, she colors it blue. What do you think is going on then? Is it possible that our current moods can color our past memories? Or how we define our personality?
  1. Do you think that the core memories were changed forever or was there a temporary filter on them?
  1. When Riley’s mother tells her that she is helping her parents by being their “happy girl,” Riley feels pressure to only show them her joy. What do you think of this?
  1. Do you think that our society values certain emotions over others? Which ones?
  1. At the end of the movie, Joy learns that other emotions, especially Sadness, are also important. Why?
  1. Do you think it is easier for males or females, or for younger or older people, to express different emotions? Which ones? Why?

Download a free printable version here: Inside Out Study Guide Understanding Emotions

*The “Inside Out” Study Guide: Understanding Emotions is © Abigail Burd, LCSW, 2015. May be printed individually for use in therapy or classes. Please do not republish questions in print, online or in social media, although you are welcome to share by linking to for others to download for free.

And just for fun, check out Riley’s Mind Map (below). What would your mind map look like?

Map of Riley's Mind from Inside Out

Movie images courtesy Disney/Pixar. Riley’s Mind Map from Disney wikia.

About Abigail Burd, LCSW:San Diego Therapist Free Consult

Abby is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist with over 15 years experience in mental health and substance abuse. She helps individuals, couples, and families in her practice in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, CA. Areas of interest include parenting, maternal mental health, depression, anxiety and personal growth.




About the Author:

Abigail Burd, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist practicing in San Diego. (CA lic #LCS26867.) Specialties include maternal mental health, parenting, addiction, depression/anxiety and personal growth. Abby is experienced providing counseling to others in the helping fields, college students, and graduate students.


  1. Laurie August 11, 2015 at 9:09 am - Reply

    I like these questions, thanks!

    My issue with the movie though was that Riley was controlled by her emotions throughout. I think that’s a false message. I teach my elementary school students that they should feel their feelings, but they also are responsible for their actions.

  2. Kelly Bera August 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    I love this movie and have developed a similar curriculum based on it. I am the director of a program that works with at-risk teens using art and drama as well as thematic discussion. We are doing a whole semester on ideas from this movie!!

  3. Rolly Recla Gonzaga (@roltodile_xoxo) September 30, 2015 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    What are the answers of those 10 questions ? Please it’s my homework .Send me those answers. Thank you

    • Abigail Burd October 1, 2015 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      I love that your teacher assigned these questions! There is no one right or wrong answer. The key is just to get you to start thinking about it and having a discussion. Try your best and write whatever the question makes you think of.

  4. Sarahi April 3, 2016 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Where are the answers?

  5. […] recent “Inside Out” Study Guide for helping teens and adults understand emotions has been getting positive feedback on Pinterest. […]

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