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Kjetil

Subconscious decisions

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Some researchers in 2008 were able to predict, with 60% accuracy, whether a subject was going to push a button with their left or right hand. This is notable, not just because the accuracy is better than chance, but also because the scientists were able to make these predictions up to 10 seconds before the subject acted - well before the subject felt they had decided.

(From Wikipedia on "Thought identification")

Does this mean that our conscious choices aren't as free as we like to think?

Edited by Kjetil

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No one can be free from their own identity. If that is what some like to think, then yes they are not that free. The freedom in consciousness is freedom from external control. Your question implies that real freedom would require there be no internal components or processes over time underlying thought, which is impossible. Without internal identity there would be no identity at all.

To be is to be something definite and particular. Things that exist, existents, extend over space and time. Thoughts have an existential form over a small space in our heads and short spans of time. It could not be otherwise.

DonAthos likes this

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Sure, there are internal components or processes underlying thought, but if choices (like pressing a button) are actually made by our consciousness and not by our subconsciousness, wouldn't you expect ca. 50% accuracy in such experiments?

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... wouldn't you expect ca. 50% accuracy in such experiments?
Why? I assume they were using some "cause" to predict the effect. What was it? Was it something like signals from electrodes fixed to the subject's head? Or, some rules -- about patterns -- they were applying (something the subject did not consciously realize)?.

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The decision being made seems trivial, the participants are instructed to press the button when they feel the urge to so. Where do urges come from? I can testify that I would not use the concept of 'urge' to describe the outcome of my most deliberate conscious decisions. They went looking for "unconscious determinants of free decisions in the brain" and found a way to produce them. This process is not similar to committing to the use of logic or math to reason out a problem, then working out the problem, then accepting the result.

I found a pdf for the original experiment here.

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I had a similar thought. Deciding what button to push is much more like a random number generation experiment than a real decision making process. When faced with two arbitrary choices, where selection between the two is meaningless, why not a die roll of the brain? A similar experiment in which they were able to influence the choice being made similarly seems more like loading a die than disproving free will.

I'd be much more interested in seeing them do testing on a much more complex decision making process.

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