In a kind of spooky experiment, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences reveal that our decisions are made seconds before we become aware of them.
In the study, participants could freely decide if they wanted to press a button with their right or left hand.
The only condition was that they had to remember when they made the decision to either use their right hand or left hand.
Using fMRI, researchers would scan the brains of the participants while all of this was going on in order to find out if they could in fact predict which hand the participants would use BEFORE they were consciously aware of the decision.
By monitoring the micro patterns of activity in the frontopolar cortex, the researchers could predict which hand the participant would choose 7 SECONDS before the participant was aware of the decision.
“Your decisions are strongly prepared by brain activity. By the time consciousness kicks in, most of the work has already been done,” said study co-author John-Dylan Haynes, a Max Planck Institute neuroscientist.
I don’t even know where to begin here! I know from the hypnosis research that the unconscious pretty much controls everything and that consciousness is extremely limited.
But, I do find it a bit disconcerting that decisions are made by unconscious me 7 seconds before conscious me…
I am not the only one.
Watch Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford) go through the study himself. The 7 second delay is in full effect.
Marcus is really disturbed here and brings up the subject of free will. Does this mean we really do NOT have free will? I am really curious what you think about this, please comment below.
Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes, “Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain.” Nature Neuroscience, April 13th, 2008.