ORIGINAL

Strange continuity: why our brains don’t explode at film cuts

7 minutes

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’Arpino

Producer: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Writer: Jeffrey M Zacks

Narrator: Karl Miller

Animator: Ermina Takenova

Music: YACHT, Dave Depper

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like

‘I read one article and decided that I wanted to support an organisation that promotes critical thinking around ideas that affect our everyday lives.’

John T, Canada, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon, for me, continues to be one of the best places to spend a quiet afternoon, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds around.’

Shivam C, India, Friend of Aeon

‘Every morning I look forward to seeing what’s in your email and there isn’t a day that goes by without reading or watching something you guys have published.

It’s like an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad.’

Jack D, USA, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is what readers and writers dream about. It is wide in scope, without ever being shallow. It offers stimulating issues, yet never seeking to be tantalising.

Publishing at its best. I love it.’

Professor Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford

‘Aeon’s combination of intelligence, integrity and flair is vanishingly rare – and I am very grateful for it. It is becoming an indispensable presence in the digital world for those who believe that ideas matter.’

Tom Chatfield, writer and commentator on digital culture

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Essay/
Mental Health
The usefulness of dread

My anxiety has been lifelong but I would not wish it away. It has made me the philosopher – and person – that I am today

Samir Chopra

Essay/
Personality
Why we love tyrants

Psychoanalysis explains how authoritarians energise hatred, self-pity and delusion while promising heaven on Earth

David Livingstone Smith