As to consciously making decisions studies seem to suggest that that is an illusion as at least some decisions which we believe we are making consciously are made well before we become conscious of having made them.https://brainworldmagazine.com/whos-the-decision-maker-your-brain-or-you/A classic experiment from the 1970s and early 1980s that is referenced frequently in these discussions is the work of Dr. Benjamin Libet, which showed that the brain begins preparing for movement even before we consciously decide to move. In Libet’s experiment, people were asked to move a finger whenever they were ready. When they had the urge to move, all they had to do was check where the second hand was on the clock. Meanwhile, Libet measured the activity in his subjects’ brains and found that while the conscious decision to move the hand happened on average 200 milliseconds before the person moved their hand, the brain had already begun preparing for this movement a whole second in advance.
The experiment contradicted everything we had believed so far about decision-making. Until then, scientists thought that a person makes a conscious decision to act, and then the brain sends signals to the body that enables us to take that action. But this sequence of events was now under question. Do we really make our decisions, or are they made for us? And, if so, are we still responsible for them? Additionally, if someone were to monitor my brain, could he or she know, even before I do, what action I’m going to take?https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080411/full/news.2008.751.htmlBrain makes decisions before you even know it
Brain activity predicts decisions before they are consciously made.https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-03-brains-reveal-choices-aware.htmlA new UNSW study suggests we have less control over our personal choices than we think, and that unconscious brain activity determines our choices well before we are aware of them.
Published in Scientific Reports today, an experiment carried out in the Future Minds Lab at UNSW School of Psychology showed that free choices about what to think can be predicted from patterns of brain activity 11 seconds before people consciously chose what to think about.
Well yes. When I was a young man I involuntarily managed to carry out such an experiment on myself. But I approached it the other way around.
Following an operation under general anaesthetic, when I recovered full consciousness I was lying on my back in a hospital bed, I was totally paralysed*
How did I know this? I didn't - which is rather the point.
So... I found it very relaxing lying there still and quiet with my eyes closed, hearing the sounds from the ward around be. (I had been through a difficult time in the preceding months, but no matter) So I "decided" to stay just like that for a while more. Then for a while longer. Then for even longer... I was liking it, it felt good to me.
Eventually my stasis started to attract attention from other patients: "What's wrong with him?
" "Why hasn't he woken up?
" "Will he recover?
" "Is he dead?
Hah! "Little do they know. I feel fine, I like this - so I'm just going to carry right on doing it!
" The hours passed, I was still "doing" exactly the same thing - nothing. But I still felt fine, so I 'decided' I would continue "doing" it. Eventually, even I started thinking: "This is odd. I've never done this before. Nobody does this. Still! Feels OK to me, so I'm going to keep right on doing it!
" A doctor came and examined me, he went away again. I kept on doing exactly nothing - and liking it.
The next day (or so) nothing had changed. Then I had an idea, I decided I was going to do something! But only something very small: I would open my eyelids a tiny, tiny amount. Absolutely no more that 1 mm.
So I did.
knew that I had been
totally paralysed. I now
knew I was no longer totally paralysed - albeit all I could do was open my eyelids 1 mm. I now
knew I would shortly 'decide' to open my eyelids a whole 2 mm and then a little later...
This was not any kind of revelation, or shock, or even surprise. Before I physically opened my eyes 1 mm I had not known in any way that I couldn't. 'I' thought/knew it was simply 'my' choice/decision to lie immovable - though even I thought it was a bit unusual, not to say odd. This transition from not knowing to knowing was seamless.
After it was all over I naturally thought about it all at the time. Clearly it seemed strange and unexpected, bizarre even. One thing I thought at the time was it was as if
my brain knew I was paralysed and it 'thought': "Blimey! We can't tell him that, he'll go spare. Let's tell him he's fine and just enjoying a quiet period of rest. He's so dumb he'll swallow that.
Amongst other things it did leave me at the time with an apparently strange and disconcerting conclusion: "I'm not in charge around here. My brain is.
I don't know if in the circumstances "paralysed" is the medically correct term to use. But I will use it here for simplicity