For millennia, we’d never seen anything like film cuts. How do we process them so easily?

Before the emergence and rapid proliferation of film editing at the dawn of the 20th century, humans had never been exposed to anything quite like film cuts: quick flashes of images as people, objects and entire settings changed in an instant. But rather than reacting with confusion to edits, early filmgoers lined up in droves to spend their money at the cinema, turning film – and eventually its close cousin, television – into the century’s defining media. It would seem that our evolutionary history did very little to prepare us for film cuts – so why don’t our brains explode when we watch movies? Adapted from an Aeon essay by the US psychologist and brain scientist Jeffrey M Zacks, this Aeon Video original explores why our visual experience has much more in common with film editing than it appears to at first glance.

Director and Editor: Adam D’ArpinoProducer: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen QuinnWriter: Jeffrey M ZacksNarrator: Karl MillerAnimator: Ermina TakenovaMusic: YACHT, Dave Depper

Support Aeon

‘Your articles are smart, well written, and enriching. This is what intelligentsia is about.’

Dien H, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

Essay/Social Psychology

In extremis

As Hannah Arendt argued, there is one common thread which connects individuals drawn to all kinds of extremist ideologies

Nabeelah Jaffer

Idea/Mental Health

To be resilient, face tragedy with humour and flexibility

Steven Southwick Dennis Charney

Video/Social Psychology

Sure, ‘Pizzagate’ is bunk, but does a conspiracy theorist lurk inside all of us?

18 minutes

Essay/Love & Friendship

Love your frenemy

Envy is the dark side of love, but love is the luminous side of envy. Is there a way to harness envy wisely, for growth?

Sara Protasi


Self-restraint goes hand in hand with the good life. Can brain science help us get a grip?

5 minutes

Idea/Illness & Disease

How validating their distorted memories helps people with dementia

Lisa Bortolotti