RSA Animate - The Divided Brain - RSA

RSA Animate - The Divided Brain

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  • Education and learning

Renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

 Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme.



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  • Dear Viewer / Student / Reader, As per Andrew Barlow's comments below, it is amazing that this information is not stirring up more chatter and commentary. Prof. McGilchrist's work is the first I've seen which clearly articulates the discreet nature of the front of the cortex from the basal area, as clearly as left from right. As such, this is a breakthrough book. I had been studying regional, cortical functionality for around 5 years, from 2005, when I first read The Master and His Emissary. It represented a huge leap forward in what had been published prior. Luria's work went into detail about the various areas within the frontal lobes. Hellige likewise into detail about hemispheric asymmetry. However, none had so simply and clearly announced in public the difference between our sensory cortex and our frontal cortex ("to inhibit the immediate; standing back in time and space"), in my humble opinion, since Karl Pribram. I have recommended the book ever since. Most of my students do not go beyond the practical in terms of knowledge in the field, however, a small group do delve into the theoretical regarding how we perceive the world and the patterns of behaviour observable in all human beings, irrespective of region, society, age, gender, etc. I realise I'm making great leaps from the content of the video or the pages of Prof. McGilchrist's work; irrespective, this remains an excellent landmark text, which I believe in time will be seen as a turning point of our understanding of the brain.

  • Dear Fellowship,

    I'm staggered that since this lecture (and previously, Prof. Iain McGilchrist's book, "The Master and His Emissary"), has not attracted one comment since first released the exert from one his lectures, an abridged version of his book in 2011.

    Maybe around about the time his book hit the bookstands, I was grappling with a revised mental heath diagnosis as having an "Attentional Condition" and maybe this was why his book had such a profound impact on my life and the changes that ensued.

    I am in Australia and behavioural 'experts' cringe when anyone makes reference to right brain / left brain ... and so on. Indeed as Dr. / Prof. McGilchrist points out, there is no doubt, the two work in unison.

    However, I am an advocate regarding his views on "reasoning" and how the development of our brains has skewed us to be more left brain 'reliant' and why he is so interested those properties potentially under-acknowledged residing in the right hemisphere. The left brain is the 'safe' way'. A way that minimises risk and provides a way forward that seemingly is a more secure and logical approach to decision making and thus a pathway to (supposedly) sustain our existence. However, has this neurological evolution served us as well as we purport?

    As a diagnosed adult with an 'attentional condition' as my Doctor passively refers to it, it appears I have an extreme right brain view of the world. In his words, "You are a right brain person living in a left brain world'. Whilst throwing up a myriad of challenges, I have come to embrace and leverage the uniqueness that comes with this 'non-neuro typical' profile and I adore all that comes with it and am passionate to help others engage with those properties of the right hemisphere that may be somewhat foreign or alien to many people - as much as left brain properties are as alien to me.

    Since I first read Dr. / Prof. McGilchrist's book in 2011, "The Master & His Emissary", (and not an easy read at that), it has been the epicentre of my inspiration and enabled me to embrace that which I was cripplingly ashamed of for many years. I now feel like I am one of maybe many who champion Dr. / Prof. McGilChrist's views.

    What a wonderful insights he had brought to our attention. More importantly, how do we leverage his proposal to improve the the taste of the cake we bake?

    Andrew Barlow

    Executive Coach


    • As a relatively new FRSA I was not fortunate enough to be able to attend Prof McGilchrist's lecture regarding the Divided Brain, but like you I have been inspired and moved by his humane and erudite enquiry into the divergent modes of reasoning and the evolutionary bias towards left brain perception.

      In my client practice as a psychotherapist I see suffering at both ends of the divide - individuals with right brain deficit bringing emptiness, numbness and naivity, and those with left brain deficit struggling to let go of their fullness in order to focus on realising a specific dimension of self.  For the wellbeing of individuals and society I believe we need to be concerned with re-balancing both aspects - since left brain 'emptiness' is fueling addiction and compulsive consumption, whilst right brain 'lack of confidence and focus' is preventing qualities of empathy, relational problem solving and original thinking from reaching the many complex problems of our age.  

      So like you I wonder where McGilchrist's lecture and contact with the RSA has landed.  Are there other fellows interested in this area of enquiry ?  If so could we please make contact with one another and help to build a field of enquiry to put this more confidently on the map  ?