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A scientific peek into free will

Discussion in 'Mind, Body & Spirit' started by Kauil, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Kauil

    Kauil Member

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    YouTube - BBC Horizon - The Secret You

    At about 48:40 in the video (the video is a BBC document about consciousness and how it manifests itself in the brain) there's a simple study with MRI and choice-making.

    "When I become conscious of making a choice, John can [6 seconds earlier] predict what I was going to do before I even realized what I was doing."

    Kinda makes you wonder... what is this "I" we speak of :O I'd say this is fascinating! And the more you think of it kinda scary, too.

    What do you think? Have you seen any other studies like this?
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2011
  2. Kauil

    Kauil Member

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  3. GilesC

    GilesC Member

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    I'll try and get to watch it when I'm home (can't at work), but I know what is being referred to.

    It's something I've just read about in a book called "The Happiness Hypothesis" by Jonathan Haidt (Professor of Psychology - University of Virginia)...

    What he describes has been found by scientific experiment and MRI scans etc. is that, although the neural inputs make their way to the brain and enter the conscious mind so that they can be cogitated and then reasoned upon and ultimately acted upon, there is still the need for the body to react more quickly than this as part of the "flight or fight" instinct. Essentially, as the neural inputs come from the senses they pass through an area of the brain that performs a 'pattern matching' against previous experience and knowledge and if there is any match found then it will send back out immediate signals to cause the body to react in the way it did previously. It's the same sort of thing as when you watch a film in the cinema and something suddenly happens to make you jump. This part of the brain reacted to the pattern of previous experience, before it even got to the reasoning conscious part of the brain where you could consciously decide that it's just a film and not real.

    Well, that's the cut down version of what he described anyway, he obviously describes it more clearly and covering more of a chapter.

    :)

    Hugs

    Giles
     
  4. Edwin

    Edwin Member

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    And any guru would be the first to ask you: if there really is no "I", who is scared then ? ;)
     
  5. GilesC

    GilesC Member

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    Coming back to this.

    I watched the Horizon program (the BBC do make some very good programmes). It was very interesting. Just a shame that the presenter was so ardently fixed in his determination to take an atheist viewpoint on things, even when there were loads of pointers to 'other' reasons. He couldn't see beyond the brain being the controlling force and didn't even consider exploring that possibility.

    :)

    Hugs

    Giles
     
  6. Edwin

    Edwin Member

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    I think it is because it was supposed to be a science program, and scientists tend to look down on religion.

    Everything has to be proven. But still, they proved that there is no free will... Something that the Buddhists and Advaitans have been saying for thousands of years... I wonder when science will prove another claim made by Buddhists ;)
     
  7. Kauil

    Kauil Member

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    My friend pointed out that that there's still reflexes... they certainly don't take 6 seconds to work. Lets say someone tries to punch you and instantly you make an effort to block/dodge the punch, you react. So either the universe knows what is going to happen beforehand and prepares you to react... or there's something wrong with the study. :p Quirky.
     
  8. Edwin

    Edwin Member

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    Good point, but this remark shows that you didn't pay attention at biology ;)

    The brain is made up into several parts. This is an evolution thing.

    From Wikipedia:
    The brain monitors and regulates the body's actions and reactions. It continuously receives sensory information, and rapidly analyzes these data and then responds, controlling bodily actions and functions. The brainstem controls breathing, heart rate, and other autonomic processes that are independent of conscious brain functions. The neocortex is the center of higher-order thinking, learning, and memory. The cerebellum is responsible for the body's balance, posture, and the coordination of movement.

    What you are talking about is a REFLEX
    This is an involuntory action.
    In fact, since these actions are crucial for survival, the part of the brain that is responsible for the reflex, will override your conscious thoughts.

    It is not rational like thoughts.
    It is the first defense against anything that requires fast reaction without thinking.
     
  9. Itlandm

    Itlandm Member

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    Of course we have a measure of free will, it just works differently from what people believe. Evidently normal humans think that their language module is making their decisions. I suppose that makes sense since it is the one talking about it. But it should not really come as a big surprise that the verbal mind comes running after the fact, converting it into words that can be shared and, more importantly, stored efficiently in our memory. Most people don't actually remember much of what happened through the day (or year, or life) but rather what they told themselves right afterwards. If one is lucky, this is a reasonable facsimile of real life. And then there are some few real memories, like scattered glints of sun on the waves.

    In any case, judges have a tendency to disregard proof that free will does not exist. Just a heads up. :)
     
  10. Itlandm

    Itlandm Member

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    One thing I had as a kind of hobby for a while was to listen to the news on radio with a certain frame of mind, which was kind of inspired by the feeling of deja-vu. When in this particular state of mind, I would know the next word or two I was going to hear, as long as I did not try to articulate it with my body. This works not because of my awesome psychic powers, but because language processing in the brain actually takes a little time, enough for the sound to bypass it and present itself in a different way slightly before the normal processing was finished. It was pretty cool, although useless.

    During an ordinary conversation, people don't immediately respond to the last thing you said. They actually plan what they are going to say while you talk to them. Sometimes this is embarrassingly obvious, because their thinking on what they will say requires so much of their mental resources that they don't actually hear what is said, but what they expect. So yes, it makes perfect sense that there may be a delay of several seconds while the brain processes information.
     

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