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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"They also reveal just how wide open our internal psychological processes are to the influence of external stimuli and events in our immediate environment, without knowledge or awareness of such influence. For many these findings represent a serious threat to our everyday folk understanding of ourselves as conscious, rational, responsible agents, since they indicate that the conscious mind exercises less control over our behavior than we have traditionally assumed., for example, Libet et al. (1983);Libet (1985Libet ( , 1999);Soon et al. (2008);Wegner (2002); Wegner and Wheatley (1999);Bargh (1997Bargh ( , 2008);Bargh and Chartrand (1999); Bargh and Ferguson (2000);Wilson (2002); Nisbett and Wilson (1977); Doris (2002). The literature on Social Intuitionism (e.g., Haidt 2001) is also sometimes cited in this regard—see Sie (2013) for a brief discussion of its possible relevance. "
"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. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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%.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
"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. "
[Show description][Hide description] 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.