Unconscious determinants of free decisions

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Compassionist
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Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #1

Post by Compassionist »

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408715
Abstract

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.
We are not free. We are prisoners of causality living inevitable lives and dying inevitable deaths. We are doomed to be conceived, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. We have no say in the matter.

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Re: Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #21

Post by Compassionist »

ElCodeMonkey wrote: [Replying to post 1 by Compassionist]

While I highly doubt the 10s thing since some decisions don't have that much time to process and act, I still have no idea what the converse argument would even be. Of course we make decisions based on causality. What else could it be? Say a soul made a decision. Based on what? If it's based on knowledge, then where'd the knowledge come from if not the previous learnings and experiences which were based on previous non-controllable or else deterministic events? Randomness? Is that even a "decision" then? It simply has to be causal.
I agree. We are biological organisms which live by making choices according to the interactions of our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences. For example, if I were to teleport you to a freezer set at minus 50 degrees celsius your choices would be very different to if I teleported you to a chamber set at 50 degrees celsius. And that's altering just one environmental variable. I am constantly doing things I don't want to do and constantly failing to do things I want to do because I am not free. I am a prisoner of causality who was conceived without consent, as are you.

Things I want to do but can't do due to lack of ability:

1. Go back in time and prevent all suffering and death and injustice.
2. Make all living things equally omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent and be the owner of an infinite number of universes each.
3. End all diseases, health problems, deaths, etc.
4. Prevent all natural disasters.
5. Prevent all accidents.
6. Prevent all violence, killings, rapes, kidnappings, tortures, crimes, persecutions, bullying, bigotry, hypocrisy, selfishness, cruelty, etc.
7. Prevent all malevolence and ignorance.
8. Give everyone the ability to teleport everywhere in an infinite number of universes across an infinite number of timelines.
9. Prevent all poverty.

Things I do (or will do) even though I don't want to do them:

1. Breathe
2. Eat
3. Drink
4. Sleep
5. Dream
7. Pee
8. Poo
9. Fart
10. Burp
11. Sneeze
12. Cough
13. Age
14. Get ill
15. Get injured
16. Sweat
17. Cry
18. Suffer
19. Shiver
20. Die

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marco
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Re: Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #22

Post by marco »

Compassionist wrote:
Things I want to do but can't do due to lack of ability …..
Travel as fast as a wild beast; be warm all the time even in a snowstorm; fly in the air as a bird or move for miles to explore the world beneath the sea; make hot food appear almost on a wish and talk to my close friend who is now many miles away in search of food.

So our ancient ancestor might say. And many of your wishes will be granted to some distant relative. We are merely atoms in a long line of communication. Julius Caesar exists today but in some other non-Roman, non-military form.

In the little cages where we live and die there's enough to keep us interested for a lifetime. Try reading some dead authors; in that way we read our alternative selves.

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Re: Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #23

Post by Compassionist »

marco wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Things I want to do but can't do due to lack of ability …..
Travel as fast as a wild beast; be warm all the time even in a snowstorm; fly in the air as a bird or move for miles to explore the world beneath the sea; make hot food appear almost on a wish and talk to my close friend who is now many miles away in search of food.

So our ancient ancestor might say. And many of your wishes will be granted to some distant relative. We are merely atoms in a long line of communication. Julius Caesar exists today but in some other non-Roman, non-military form.

In the little cages where we live and die there's enough to keep us interested for a lifetime. Try reading some dead authors; in that way we read our alternative selves.
I agree. What we can now do was unimaginable to most of our ancestors across the 4 billion years of life on Earth. I read lots of books. Thank you for your reply.

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Post #24

Post by Gracchus »

A stimulus travels directly to the amygdala and we immediately react. But the original stimulus also travels to the anterior cingulate cortex in the frontal lobe where there is a delay and the stimulus is subjected to analysis and a more detailed examination. This delayed but more accurate (usually) information is then passed to the amygdala and we may have time to keep from pulling the trigger or throwing the punch.
Those self-identifying as "conservative" have larger amygdalae and thinner, less-developed frontal cortex than those who self-identify as liberal who have thicker cortex and smaller amydalae. The conservative reacts faster but on less information than the liberal. It seems evident that both anatomies have advantages, although the liberal seems better adapted to complex stable social interactions.
It is also interesting that if you partially disable the frontal cortex by alcohol intoxication, liberals become more conservative, and if you frighten a liberal they also tend to react with less consideration.

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marco
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Post #25

Post by marco »

Gracchus wrote:

Those self-identifying as "conservative" have larger amygdalae and thinner, less-developed frontal cortex than those who self-identify as liberal who have thicker cortex and smaller amygdalae.
It is amusing that we can move from geometry to political attitudes so easily. Ladies, it seems, have smaller amygdalae so it is astonishing that Mrs Thatcher rose to the top of the conservative tree. But I suppose the important phrase is "identifying as". Perhaps when men identify as women, which seems to be commoner these days, the amygdala obligingly grows smaller, and vice versa for women wanting to be called men.

In any event, this remarkable ability "to identify as" suggests free will is alive and kicking, whatever the amygdala has to say.

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Post #26

Post by Gracchus »

[Replying to post 25 by marco]
What does gender have to do with my post? I was commenting about what neuroscience has discovered about differences between "liberals" and "conservatives".
Now, not all the differences are anatomical of course. But the anatomy does, obviously, contribute to behavior.
Conservatives tend to simplify and make snap judgments. Having acted, they don't like to reconsider. If they make a mistake they tend to "double down".
"Liberals" are only slightly more flexible. And, of course, most folks are liberal about some things and conservative in others. That's why the researchers had the test subjects self-identify.
So, it would seem Marco has but me into a pigeon hole where he puts all those who disagree with him. And however he self-identifies, he is a conservative. He reacted to my post without examining what it was really saying and grabbed the sexist label from his pigeonhole.
To the extent that we have "free will" it is only possible by interposing the frontal cortex between stimulus and reaction. Our reaction is still determined by chemistry, history and environment, but it is more likely to reflect actual reality rather than flawed first impressions.


:study:

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Post #27

Post by marco »

Gracchus wrote:

What does gender have to do with my post? I was commenting about what neuroscience has discovered about differences between "liberals" and "conservatives".
I was pointing out that the size of the amygdala apparently also differentiates men from women, if research is to be believed. In the lib-con experimentation, the two groups are formed by "self-identification", whatever that might involve. And those "self-identifying" as conservative share with men the possession of a larger amygdala. So a lady with a large amygdala is a rara avis.

Conservatives tend to simplify and make snap judgments. Having acted, they don't like to reconsider. If they make a mistake they tend to "double down".
I wonder which quasi-experiment this came from. Was Freud involved as well?
So, it would seem Marco has put me into a pigeon hole where he puts all those who disagree with him. And however he self-identifies, he is a conservative. He reacted to my post without examining what it was really saying and grabbed the sexist label from his pigeonhole.
I have absolutely no issues on sexism or any desire to label people. It is the pigeon-holing of conservatives and liberals that inspired my post.
I reacted to your post with incredulity that science can base classification on something as nebulous as "self-identification".
To the extent that we have "free will" it is only possible by interposing the frontal cortex between stimulus and reaction.
Fascinating.

I think when we lock people into rooms marked liberal and conservative we can theorise till dawn. Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe appears to have discovered truths of the amygdala long before the scientists set to work:

... every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!

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Post #28

Post by bluegreenearth »

To the best of my current understanding, there doesn't appear to be a way to demonstrate the existence of a truly libertarian freewill decision. When a choice is made, we can either point to a reason that determined that particular outcome or point to no reason. If we had no reason, then the choice was randomly determined. Either way, all decisions appear to be determined by reasons or randomly determined.

For example, imagine you are asked to choose between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. If you choose vanilla because it is your favorite of the two flavors, then that reason determined your decision to choose vanilla. Could you have otherwise chosen the chocolate ice cream? If you had otherwise chosen chocolate despite vanilla being your favorite flavor, then whatever reason you had for choosing chocolate in that moment is what determined that decision. If you had no reason for choosing vanilla over chocolate or chocolate over vanilla, then your decision was randomly determined. Even if you try to claim it was your freewill decision to choose randomly, then then your decision to choose randomly was determined by a reason or randomly determined. If there is a third option that demonstrates an ability to make a libertarian freewill decision, I'm unaware of it at this time.

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Post #29

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote:For example, imagine you are asked to choose between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. If you choose vanilla because it is your favorite of the two flavors, then that reason determined your decision to choose vanilla. Could you have otherwise chosen the chocolate ice cream? If you had otherwise chosen chocolate despite vanilla being your favorite flavor, then whatever reason you had for choosing chocolate in that moment is what determined that decision.
This narrative is unfalsifiable. Why think that the different reason determined your choice, rather than you thought about all the reasons for choosing either and decided to side with one choice over the other (and, therefore, at least one of those reasons), even though you didn't have to? Why is "free" equal to making a choice against any reason to do so? Especially since even if one went against every reason, that would become a reason behind one's choice.
bluegreenearth wrote:If there is a third option that demonstrates an ability to make a libertarian freewill decision, I'm unaware of it at this time.
The third option is the will. It's that our choice is determined by factors ouside our will, by our will, or completely random.

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Post #30

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: This narrative is unfalsifiable. Why think that the different reason determined your choice, rather than you thought about all the reasons for choosing either and decided to side with one choice over the other (and, therefore, at least one of those reasons), even though you didn't have to? Why is "free" equal to making a choice against any reason to do so? Especially since even if one went against every reason, that would become a reason behind one's choice.
When you think about all the reasons for choosing vanilla or chocolate and decide to side with one choice over the other for no reason, then your choice was randomly determined. When you think about all the reasons and choose one of those reasons to support your decision to have the vanilla or chocolate ice cream, then that choice was also determined by a reason or randomly determined. The claim that you didn't have to choose one reason over another is a post-hoc rationalization that cannot be demonstrated.

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