Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nat Neurosci

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstrasse 1A, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Nature Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 16.1). 06/2008; 11(5):543-5. DOI: 10.1038/nn.2112
Source: PubMed


There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively 'free' decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

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Available from: Chun Siong Soon,
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    • "According to Hallett (2007), under this perspective, intention could be considered as a perception of a motor state that has already been determined in the brain. Starting from this standpoint, a number of independent research groups found that the conscious intention is preceded by unconscious brain activity in the motor areas (e.g., Haggard and Eimer, 1999; Rigoni et al., 2013) and that through this unaware activity it is possible to predict the outcome of a decision up to several seconds before it enters awareness (e.g., Soon et al., 2008, 2013). Moreover, some research focused on the detection of prior intentions, distinguishing them from lies. "
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    ABSTRACT: In daily life and in courtrooms, people regularly analyze the minds of others to understand intentions. Specifically, the detection of intentions behind prior events is one of the main issues dealt with in courtrooms. To our knowledge, there are no experimental works focused on the use of memory detection techniques to detect past intentions. This study aims at investigating whether reaction times (RTs) could be used for this purpose, by evaluating the accuracy of the autobiographical Implicit Association Test (aIAT) in the detection of past intentions. Sixty healthy volunteers took part in the experiment (mean age: 36.5 y; range: 18–55; 30 males). Participants were asked to recall and report information about a meeting with a person that had occurred at least 1 month before. Half of the participants were required to report about an intentional meeting, whereas the other half reported on a chance meeting. Based on the conveyed information, participants performed a tailored aIAT in which they had to categorize real reported information contrasted with counterfeit information. Results demonstrated that RTs can be a useful measure for the detection of past intentions and that aIAT can detect real past intentions with an accuracy of 95%.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11/2015; 9(519-608). DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00608 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Overall, although this study is still limited by the use of a selfpaced and self-report task, it strongly suggests neural activity occurring before a conscious intention carries information about voluntary decisions and the time of conscious awareness. A study using fMRI in healthy patients used a similar decoding strategy on BOLD patterns to determine where and when brain signals start to carry information about voluntary actions (Soon et al., 2008). They also used an improved version of the Libet task. "
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    DESCRIPTION: To understand the neurobiological basis of volition, I first reviewed the phenomenology of voluntary actions and the brain circuits involved in each aspects of action generation. In a second part, I focused on a question that has dominated the free-will debate in neuroscience for the last decades: do motor intentions form unconsciously in the brain before we are aware of them? I presented the Libet experiment that first suggested that unconscious neural process are at the origin of conscious motor decisions, I described more recent experiments that arrived at similar conclusions and then detailed the technical and conceptual shortcomings of these experiments. Finally, I reflected on the implications of these findings on the mind-brain problem and reviewed the philosophical and scientific solutions proposed to explain or refute mental causation of actions.
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    • "In some situations people have a certain outcome in mind because they have an explicit goal to reach a certain outcome (e.g., eating pasta). Yet, most (especially social) behavior is not planned or intentional (Bargh and Morsella, 2008; Custers and Aarts, 2010; Fourneret and Jeannerod, 1998; Moskowitz, 2002; Soon et al., 2008). Still, people can experience self-agency over this 'unintentional' behavior and its consequences. "
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    ABSTRACT: Difficulties in self-other processing lie at the core of schizophrenia and pose a problem for patients' daily social functioning. In the present selective review, we provide a framework for understanding self-other integration and distinction, and impairments herein in schizophrenia. For this purpose, we discuss classic motor prediction models in relation to mirror neuron functioning, theory of mind, mimicry, self-awareness, and self-agency phenomena. Importantly, we also discuss the role of more recent cognitive expectation models in these phenomena, and argue that these cognitive models form an essential contribution to our understanding of self-other integration and distinction. In doing so, we bring together different lines of research and connect findings from social psychology, affective neuropsychology, and psychiatry to further our understanding of when and how people integrate versus distinguish self and other, and how this goes wrong in schizophrenia patients.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.09.004 · 8.80 Impact Factor
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