A neuroscience study has scientists and philosophers revisiting the free will and human decision making debate.
Using sophisticated brain imaging techniques, the researchers found that they can predict people’s simple decisions up to 10 seconds before they’re conscious of making such a choice.
“It seems that your brain starts to trigger your decision before you make up your mind,” said the study’s lead author, John-Dylan Haynes of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. “We can’t rule out free will, but I think it’s very implausible. The question is, can we still decide against the decision our brain has made?”
This finding doesn’t actually seem as strange as it first sounds. The act of making a decision is a process, and the revelation of a lag, even one as large as ten seconds, between the point of decision and the point of action sounds plausible. Because of past research and everyday personal experience, we may simply be anchored on the idea that the decision-to-action should happen in a few milliseconds.