Decisions: The Brains Behind the Operation

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As seen in the final section of the video (47:53-end) from BBC Horizon-The Secret You, Marcus de Sautoy provides intriguing evidence that we may not have as much free will as we believe we do. He attempts to find an answer to the question, who is in charge of your decisions, your conscious self or ????? When his brain activity was scanned while he was randomly selecting buttons, neuronal activity could be seen before he was even consciously aware what he was going to select. As he pointed out, that means the bystander observing the brain scan knows what we are going to decide before we even do.

But Sautoy's experiment was done on a very basic level with the simple act of randomly pushing two buttons. This makes me question how true this holds in complex decision making. Can the neurons of our brains process and make decisions for us without any involvement of the consciousness? Most situations we face in life aren't black and white like the pushing of buttons, but rather they are intricate and require what often seems is a lot of time to come up with a decision on.

All of this makes me wonder; if decision making is the result of neuronal activity why is it that some decisions require a much longer time for us to come to a consensus on? And are our decisions truly inevitable?
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I love some of the questions you bring up at the end of your post! Regarding the BBC study applying to more complex situations, I personally see the effects of my brain making decisions and my body acting without my conscious awareness when I have those "What am I doing right now?" moments. For example, often times I am told by others to stop shaking my leg while sitting because it is shaking the entire table. While I was not even aware that my leg was shaking most of the time, the fact still remains that my body was performing actions without my awareness. As far as why complex decisions take longer to make, perhaps this is the result of conflicting desires and/or goals within our brain and thought process.

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This page contains a single entry by sarki030 published on February 26, 2012 9:35 PM.

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