The Timing of a Conscious Decision: From Ear to Mouth

Libet, Gleason, Wright, & Pearl (1983) asked participants to report the moment at which they freely decided to initiate a pre-specified movement, based on the position of a red marker on a clock. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), Libet found that the subjective feeling of deciding to perform a voluntary action came after the onset of the motor “readiness potential,” RP). This counterintuitive conclusion poses a challenge for the philosophical notion of free will. Faced with these findings, Libet (1985) proposed that conscious volitional control might operate as a selector and a controller of volitional processes rather than as an initiator of them.
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