Following a rather strange experiment, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, discovered that our decisions are made 7 secudes before we become aware of them.
In the study, participants were able to freely decide if they wanted to press a button with their right or left hand.
Using the FMRI imaging technique, the researchers scanned the processes that take place in the brain during the very time they were making the decision to use one hand or the other, in order to find out, or better said predict what hand the participants will use
BEFORE they make a conscious decision!
By monitoring micro patterns of activity in the frontopolar cortex, the researchers were able to predict which hand the subjects would use 7 seconds before they consciously made the decision.
“The result is shocking,”
put Frank Tong, a neuro researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. S forseconds is “an eternity” in terms of brain activity, he added.
Could this experiment in any way limit the controversial
If the choices are already made within seconds of becoming aware of them, there is not much space left for free will to operate,
says Chris Frith, one of the researchers of the upper brain functions at the University of London.
However, these results are not enough to convince Frith that free will is just an illusion. “ We already know that our decisions can be predetermined unconsciously,” Haynes said. “And brain activity could be part of this predetermination, as opposed to the decision-making process.”
Another part of the problem is the definition of what is meant by “free will”. And results like this could help us find a better definition of it.
It is likely that neuroscience will significantly alter what we mean by free will.