Our choices seem to be freer than previously thought. Using computer-based brain experiments, researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin studied the decision-making processes involved in voluntary movements. The question was: Is it possible for people to cancel a movement once the brain has started preparing it? The conclusion the researchers reached was: Yes, up to a certain point – the ‘point of no return’. The results of this study have been published in the journal PNAS*.
“The aim of our research was to find out whether the presence of early brain waves means that further decision-making is automatic and not under conscious control, or whether the person can still cancel the decision, i.e. use a ‘veto’,” explains Prof. Haynes. As part of this study, researchers asked study participants to enter into a ‘duel’ with a computer, and then monitored their brain waves throughout the duration of the game using electroencephalography (EEG). A specially-trained computer was then tasked with using these EEG data to predict when a subject would move, the aim being to out-maneuver the player. This was achieved by manipulating the game in favor of the computer as soon as brain wave measurements indicated that the player was about to move.
If subjects are able to evade being predicted based on their own brain processes this would be evidence that control over their actions can be retained for much longer than previously thought, which is exactly what the researchers were able to demonstrate. “A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves. … More.
We bet not. How many of us would still be alive at 30 if prepared movements could not in fact be cancelled?
The early researchers who sought to undermine the concept of free will must sure have had an easy audience.
See also: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?
“I will ” means something after all
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