Hypnotizing Libet: Readiness potentials with non-conscious volition

Consciousness and Cognition 33 (C):196-203 (2015)
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Abstract

The readiness potential (RP) is one of the most controversial topics in neuroscience and philosophy due to its perceived relevance to the role of conscious willing in action. Libet and colleagues reported that RP onset precedes both volitional movement and conscious awareness of willing that movement, suggesting that the experience of conscious will may not cause volitional movement (Libet, Gleason, Wright, & Pearl, 1983). Rather, they suggested that the RP indexes unconscious processes that may actually cause both volitional movement and the accompanying conscious feeling of will (Libet et al., 1983; pg. 640). Here, we demonstrate that volitional movement can occur without an accompanying feeling of will. We additionally show that the neural processes indexed by RPs are insufficient to cause the experience of conscious willing. Specifically, RPs still occur when subjects make self-timed, endogenously-initiated movements due to a post-hypnotic suggestion, without a conscious feeling of having willed those movements.

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Author Profiles

Adina Roskies
Dartmouth College
Peter Tse
Dartmouth College