The RSA gets animated over Iain McGilchrist and the ‘divided brain’

In a new animation by Andrew Park and the RSA, renowned psychiatrist and author of The Master and His Emissary Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

The animation, entitled ‘The Divided Brain’, is part of a series of animations by Andrew Park in conjunction with the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA). Park’s animation, which took two months to complete, is based on a lecture by psychiatrist and best-selling author Iain McGilchrist. Take a look at the clip below, in which Park cleverly splices hand-drawn cartoon images together which McGilchrist’s edited lecture. The effect is wonderful, briefly summarising the central focus of McGilchrist’s work in a fun and accessible way, whilst giving the viewer a hint of the enormous and far-reaching applications of his research.


RSAnimate is a 14-part series of 10-minute animations drawn from speeches about education, economics and science and has recieved more than 46m hits on YouTube. Other speakers used in these animations include British writer Sir Ken Robinson, American psychologist Philip Zimbardo, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, technology expert Evgeny Morozov and American economist Jeremy Rifkin.

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by McGilchrist was published by Yale in 2009 and has become a huge success, asking the crucial question: why is the brain divided?

The Master and His Emissary

The Master and His Emissary

The difference between right and left hemispheres has been puzzled over for centuries. In his book, McGilchrist draws on a vast body of recent brain research, illustrated with case histories, to reveal that the difference is profound – not just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world. The left hemisphere is detail-oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility and generosity. This division helps explain the origins of music and language, and casts new light on the history of philosophy, as well as on some mental illnesses.

In the second part of the book, he takes the reader on a journey through the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists, from Aeschylus to Magritte. He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences.

The Master and His Emissary is available now from Yale University Press.

Take a look at the original lecture from Iain McGilchrist, discussing the divided brain with the RSA last year.


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