Neuroscience of Free Will

We’ve been discussing Free Will in class and I decided to look up a scientific way to prove if Free Will exists or not. Researchers at the University of California-Davis measured the brain activity of a handful of undergraduates as each made choices to look left or right when prompted by images on a screen. A bunch of controls ensured the only thing directing their gaze was their own arbitrary choice. The researchers want to determine if what they call “ongoing spontaneous variability” in neural signaling (brain’s background noise) influenced the student’s decisions. The result showed the fluctuations in brain static actually predicted the direction in which students chose to look. These constant fluctuations exist apart from the normal chain of thought, so they seem to allow spontaneous bits to disrupt constant chain of thoughts toward particular actions and open up other possibilities. Our purposeful intentions, desires, and goals drive our decisions in a linear cause-and-effect kind of way, but their findings shows that decisions can also be influenced by neural noise within any given moment. This can be problematic because it probably plays a role in making mistakes or acting against a person’s intentions but it does prove that we have the freedom of choice.

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/free-will-illusion-83861/

115 thoughts on “Neuroscience of Free Will

  1. I too came across this study and thought it was a very interesting one. However, I am a little skeptical of how the researchers determined what the brains’ background noises in each subject were. In other words, at any given time our brains are rapidly signaling and it seems difficult to imagine that the researchers were able to isolate these background noises specifically. I think I would be more convinced if we had an idea of exactly how they did this procedurally.

  2. Like Akhilesh, I find this article interesting but there may be a few problems. For example, if the brain reaction is a spontaneous change, then could it not be attributed to chance? And if this change were a random chance, then could it necessarily be considered free will? I personally believe not. This is one of a few issues I had with this article, that make it hard to believe fully, but I still find it very interesting.

  3. hello
    I find this article interesting but there may be a few problems. For example, if the brain reaction is a spontaneous change, then could it not be attributed to chance? And if this change were a random chance, then could it necessarily be considered free will? I personally believe not. This is one of a few issues I had with this article, that make it hard to believe fully, but I still find it very interesting.
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