Jul 10, 2010

From brain science, new questions about free will

July 1, 2010
Courtesy of Science
and World Science staff
Phi­loso­phers since an­cient times have strug­gled with the ques­tion of wheth­er hu­mans have any free will. With forc­es such as God or mo­lec­u­lar in­ter­ac­tions—de­pend­ing on whom you asked and when—said to ul­ti­mately con­trol eve­ry­thing, can hu­mans really make any de­ci­sions “in­de­pen­dently”?

Some sci­en­tists say re­cent re­search val­i­dates such con­cerns, cast­ing doubt on the com­mon hu­man feel­ing that we are able to make up our own minds, at least in the way we like to think.

In the July 2 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence, Ruud Cus­ters and Henk Aarts of Utrecht Uni­vers­ity in The Neth­er­lands dis­cuss re­search sug­gest­ing our sub­con­scious thoughts can ma­ni­pu­late our goals and mo­tiva­t­ions much more than sci­en­tists have ev­er im­ag­ined.

“Although it is of­ten tak­en for granted that goal pur­suit orig­i­nates in con­scious de­ci­sions, it can al­so arise from un­con­scious sources,” the pair wrote.

Re­cent find­ings show that the hu­man brain is of­ten steps ahead of its own­er, Cus­ters and Aarts ex­plained: the brain pre­pares the ac­tion well be­fore any con­scious thoughts in­struct it to do so.

The sci­en­tists cit­ed work by re­search­ers such as John Bargh at Yale Uni­vers­ity and Pe­ter Goll­witzer at New York Uni­vers­ity start­ing in 2001. Bargh and col­leagues showed how mo­tiva­t­ion to­ward a goal could arise with­out con­scious aware­ness, Cus­ter and Aarts wrote. “S­tu­dents were seated at a ta­ble to work on two seem­ingly un­re­lat­ed lan­guage puz­zles. For some stu­dents, the first puz­zle in­clud­ed words re­lat­ed to achieve­ment (such as win or achieve), and for oth­ers it did not. Stu­dents who were ex­posed to achieve­ment words were found to out­per­form the oth­ers on the sec­ond puz­zle.”

Cus­ter and Aarts pre­s­ent a the­o­ry based on the idea that the hu­man brain is de­signed for ac­tion, con­tin­u­ously and sub­con­sciously pro­cess­ing in­forma­t­ion rel­e­vant to our be­hav­ior, so that it is con­stantly ready to “in­struct” its own­er how to deal with the op­por­tun­i­ties and chal­lenges posed by our en­vi­ron­ments.

The frame­work the au­thors pro­pose for this sub­con­scious decision-making pro­cess, they said, helps re­veal just how thor­oughly these un­con­scious thoughts per­me­ate our ev­eryday lives.

“Ear­lier re­search has shown that ac­tion goals, such as mov­ing a fin­ger, that were in­i­tially con­sciously set are un­con­sciously pre­pared be­fore they are acted on,” they wrote. “The lit­er­a­ture re­viewed here sug­gests that the un­con­scious na­ture of the will has an even more per­va­sive im­pact on our life. Goals far more com­plex than fin­ger move­ments, can guide be­hav­ior with­out be­ing con­sciously set first, when they them­selves are ac­ti­vat­ed out­side con­scious aware­ness.”



  1. You should also give some time and effort to learning how
    to use them. Powder extinguishers are also known
    to be a real life hero. If you see any potential hazards, and consequences to life safety
    of the employees about fire risk assessment and you should
    be aware and knowledgeable of. The engineers like to use space heaters make
    sure you will benefit from the training burn because it will not give up when you require it the
    most. It s the fire risk assessment best way to access it.

    Also visit my web-site :: fireplace protection instruction

  2. Singapore, the implementation of the regulatory reform hair extensions order in 2005, the company acquired Kidde Fire in Mumbai
    formerly Vijay Fire for an undisclosed sum. They put on free seminars teaching about
    fire safety and prevention firm working with businesses and property
    owners to ensure the safety of your employees. Hair
    Extensions consultants are there to help them acquire the
    necessary knowledge and skills on this topic.

    Look into my weblog: millenium nails