Option 1 or Option 2? Your Brain Already Made the Decision for You

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I was very confused after watching the BBC video, The Secret You. Towards the end of this movie, an experiment was done to test the human decision making process. An Oxford professor was placed in an fMRI machine where he was asked a series of questions. He would answer the questions by pressing a button in either his right or left hand. By monitoring his brain activity, the researcher was able to determine which button he would press six seconds before he would press it.

This amazed me and really made me think. What really controls our decisions? I would like to think that I am in control of every decision I make, but am I? Is it me or my brain deciding? And if my brain is a part of my body, is there really a difference? If our brain made the decision for us, then technically we made the decision ourselves. However, we were not aware that we made this decision, so did we really? It is a confusing subject to think about. I still do not entirely understand it, and I don't think many people do.

My belief going into the video was that I was in complete control of my decisions. I felt that I was presented a set of options, and from those options I chose the best one. After watching the video, I have a slightly different understanding. I feel that when making decisions our brain uses our past experiences to decide what is best for us, thus creating the set of options we choose from. This is something that we don't consciously recognize. After this happens, then our brain chooses the best option.

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I feel like we are in control of our decisions. There may have been some other reason for the 6 second delay. It may have been that he was a little unsure and was hesitant to press the button right away. Regardless, the final outcome had to come from us. The decision he made was one he chose consciously, regardless of the time delay. He must have used previous knowledge or intuition and from that he made his decision.

I think the results of the test given at the end of the video are strange to think about, but they make sense. The man who was explaining the results of the test said that it wasn't that our brain knew what we were going to do before we decided, but our decisions actually start as neural activity before they become conscious thought. So I still think there is only one process of decision-making, but we just haven't heard of the preliminary, brain-activity stage before. I still believe we have complete control over the decisions we make. That being said, the video segment definitely sparked confusion and made me second guess myself.

I think you raise a very interesting point about the video. I didn't think about it quite the way you did but now that i have read about a different perspective I am realizing how complex the decision making process can be.

It's weird to think about these questions, and I feel like I think about them about them at the most random times. I can definitely see how this is true though. I feel like I sometimes have made a decision without even really knowing it. The video makes you think of decision making in a new light.

I'd say, our brains is a part of our body so yes, we are in control of our decisions. However, not being aware that we made the decisions does not necessarily mean we didn't make the decision. It's more of a "are we even reflecting back on ourselves to be aware the decisions we've made?" If we think before we act or after, we should realize the kind of decisions we've made, and how much effort we put in making the decision; well thought out process, careless, not sure, risk etc.
As for the movie, I think make the decisions first, but it takes time before the signals are send to our body to react to it.

This is a very interesting article. I like you am very interested to know what controls decisions and if we are in control of what decision we will make. I wonder if the complexity of the decision making process can actually be solved, or if the experiment was influenced by some sort of third factor.

This is a very interesting article. I like you am very interested to know what controls decisions and if we are in control of what decision we will make. I wonder if the complexity of the decision making process can actually be solved, or if the experiment was influenced by some sort of third factor.

The question you are presenting did not surface the first time in psychology and is not a recent idea.
Even before the discovery of fmri, philosophes like Descartes were asking the same question; are we in control of what we do?
Even in some religions, the believe is that people have choices and decide of their own destiny while in other religions, the believe
Is in a super power that control our actions, and that our thoughts are predetermined. My belief is that the truth lays somewhere in the middle.
Nice article!!

I wish my brain would decide more quickly for me, because I am always so indecisive. I totally agree with the idea that our brain chooses first because of past experiences. Someone should make exercises for your brain to help the deciding process go faster, it would be very helpful for us indecisive people ;]

regardless of what we do, i think our brain will pretty much always have some activity before it actually happens. As we know, it controls everything we do, like feeling emotions, moving our hands and feet, and making our decisions. There are many levels with which we can analyze this process, and your post and the video show that very well. Before making a decision, we have to think about each option, and we probably want to listen to the entire question so that we can collect all possible information before making that confirming decision. What goes on in our brain between each neuron is very different from what we think we know and feel, so it is very interesting to see this process from a new perspective.

I think that we are in complete control of our decisions, but the reason that our brain has decided what we are going to do is do to something we decide subconsciously. Since the brain is where we do all our thinking, and we are constantly making decisions, so the brain can sense trends that we make in our decisions, therefore it knows what we will do. And it could also possibly be that our brain makes the decision, and for those next few seconds, we are just justifying the decision that we have already made.

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This page contains a single entry by david508 published on February 19, 2012 4:25 PM.

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