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• Neuroscientist at University of California • Died July 2007, age 91 • Two important sets of experiments in 1970s on consciousness of sensations and consciousness of decisions to act • Controversial experiments, supporting theories of “unconscious thinking”, e.g. by Jackendoff and Wegner.
Set One: Backward Referral of Sensations Setup:
• Performed on patients undergoing open brain surgery • Libet stimulated their brains and their hands with electrodes, while timing their verbal responses and monitoring their brain activity
. and become conscious only about half a second afterwards. such as in playing tennis or playing video games.Results: • Consciousness of sensations lags behind the stimuli by about half a second (500 ms) • But the timing of consciousness of the sensations is referred backward to the time of the stimulus Conclusion: Fast movements. must be implemented unconsciously.
Set Two: Unconscious Initiation of Voluntary Actions Setup: Subjects fitted with electrodes on their scalps attached to an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure their brain activity.a specially designed clock with a spot of light revolving around the face approximately 25 times per second. . An oscilloscope was set up -.
Subjects then asked to make small movements with their hands. to make a small. to record the exact timing of their free decision). “when they feel the urge” (in other words. voluntary movement of their own free will) At the same time. e. . flick their wrists. subjects were instructed to watch the oscilloscope and report the exact position of the revolving circle at the moment when they first decide to flick their wrists (in other words.g. spontaneously.
the brain apparently began preparing for a movement 300 ms before subjects had the conscious impulse to move. the EEG recorded electrical charges in the brain building up to the time of the movements. . • In other words. He called these electrical charges “readiness potentials” (RPs). which started around 500 ms (up to 2000 ms) before the movement.Results: • Subjects reported deciding to make a movement approximately 200 milliseconds (ms) prior to actual movements. • However.
• Conscious initiation of decisions in an illusion. Note: • Libet’s results and interpretation of data are very controversial.Conclusion: • Conscious decisions are preceded by unconscious processes in the brain by about a third of a second. decisions are not made consciously. . because of the difficulty of timing intentions. • In other words. Decisions are made unconsciously and then become conscious.
nature.com/neuro/journal/v11/n5/abs/nn. fMRI: • Chun Siong Soon.2112.html . http://www. • Libet’s results support Jackendoff’s and Wegner’s theories (discussed below). Marcel Brass. John-Dylan Haynes: “Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain”. Hans-Jochen Heinze.But: • Libet’s results are replicable: other people have had the same results.
Jackendoff’s Theory Ray Jackendoff Cognitive Scientist Tufts University (with Daniel Dennett) Intermediate Level Theory of Mental Representation Consciousness and the Computational Mind (1987) See also: http://books.google. .com/books?id=XgHFPVhaeVEC Thinking is an unconscious process.
). proprioceptive system (perception of body states) and motor system Informationally encapsulated and inaccessible to consciousness Only the results of perceptual faculties become available to consciousness . taste. hearing.Three levels of mental representations 1) The external level Specialized modules of perception (vision. etc.
and music is understood • Completely inaccessible to awareness .2) The internal level • The inner core • The location of thought and understanding • Operates through the manipulation of non-imagistic conceptual structures. symbols with semantic content (via mentalese) • Where syntax is processed. i. spatial relationships are understood.e.
or memory or translated from thoughts generated in the inner core. Images include visual images. .3) The intermediate level The only level that is conscious.g. bodily sensations). These images are the only mental representations available to consciousness. Images of thoughts are distinct from thoughts themselves. Consciousness consists only of images of thoughts. smells. auditory images (primarily words). tastes. and sensory images (e. Images received from perceptual modules.
The Intermediate-Level Theory of Mental Representations .
.). they are translated into imagery. i.. and only after this sound image (or visual image. We become aware of our thoughts only in phonetic form (or visual form. but you cannot become aware of your thoughts in their original non-imagistic form.Summary of Jackendoff’s Theory Thoughts are formed unconsciously. or even smells. or pictures. You can become aware of your thoughts in the form of words. sensations.) is projected into consciousness. then translated in natural language and the phonetic form of the thought (the sound of the words) is projected into consciousness. a thought is formed in mentalese. After they are formed unconsciously.e. etc. etc. etc.
But. then translated to imagery. images of thoughts = thoughts Evidence for mentalese: • Ambiguity in imagery (verbal. pictorial) = ambiguity of meaning • Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon • Translatability of propositions • Similarities among natural languages .Why does Jackendoff believe this? Thoughts are unconscious. We cannot be aware of anything except mental images.
.Reasons continued Introspective evidence: thoughts pop into your head. you are aware of the thought after it occurs). deciding. You cannot introspect the unconscious calculation. You are aware of decision. You are aware of reasons. How do you decide? • • • • You are aware of options. You are only aware of the effect of the calculation (i. etc. You cannot catch yourself thinking. You make an unconscious calculation.e.
.Wegner’s Illusion of Conscious Will Daniel Wegner Psychologist The Illusion of Conscious Will (2002) “The mind’s best trick: how we experience conscious will” (2003) Conscious will is an illusion.
3) Confabulation: someone is mistaken about how they have caused an action .Illusions of conscious will Three ways in which the experience of conscious will can be wrong: 1) 2) Someone thinks they have not caused an action that they actually have caused. Someone thinks they have caused an action that they actually haven’t caused. These two show double dissociation: the feeling of having willed an action can be doubly dissociated from actually having caused an action.
devil or the FBI is controlling their actions • Dissociative Identity Disorder .1) Someone thinks they have not caused an action that they actually have caused (illusion of non-control) Many examples: • Delusion of alien control: .patients think that an alien. God.also called “Multiple Personality Disorder” .a type of schizophrenia .actions are attributed to another personality occupying the same brain .
such as unbuttoning a shirt.• Alien hand syndrome – sometimes occurs in split-brain patients (Split-brain patients have had the corpus collosum connecting the left and right hemisphere of their brain cut – drastically reducing communication between the two hemispheres) – also occurs in non-split brain patients – patient has no control over one hand – “alien” hand can conduct complex voluntary actions. grabbing a cigarette or trying to strangle the patient . moving a chess piece.
g.• Automatisms – Complex voluntary actions produced with no sense of will and attributed to spirits or other strange forces – E. • • • • Spirit possession Dowsing Table turning Ouija board writing .
and P has caused the action A. cause P believe A cause P negation .Grailog for 1): P believes that P has not caused an action A.
the confederate gently forced them to stop on a picture of that object (e. participants often said they chose to stop at the swan. When not forced. When they heard a certain word (e.g.g. participants did not generally stop at the object they heard over the headphones Conclusion: participants thought they had willed an action that they had not. swan). swan) When asked. .2) Someone thinks they have caused an action that they actually haven’t caused (illusion of control) I-Spy study Participants were set up at a computer looking at a picture of many random objects and sharing a mouse with a confederate Meanwhile. they heard words over a headphone.
cause P believe A cause P negation .Grailog for 2): P believes that P has caused an action A. and P has not caused the action A.
you needed to stretch your legs. e.g. . I ask you why you stood up. They come up with a reason for acting. You say. At 3:00 you stand up.3) Confabulation: Confabulation occurs when people are wrong about why they performed an action. Occurs in cases of hypnosis and direct brain stimulation. Shows that people are not aware of their true reasons for acting. and in split brain patients. but they do not know the true reason of their action. I hypnotize you to stand up at 3:00. rationalization). but still feel that they are acting freely for rational reasons (cf. Maybe occurs in normal people all the time.
Grailog for 3): P believes that P has caused an action A. cause P believe A cause P unequal believe reason X reason Y . and P has caused the action A. P believes that P’s causation of A has reason X. and P’s causation of A has different reason Y.
Is Conscious Will Generally an Illusion? These cases show that we are often wrong when we think that our conscious thought has caused an action. We normally consciously will our actions. but sometimes the feeling of conscious will is an illusion. Two possibilities: 1) The experience of conscious will is unreliable. 2) The theory of apparent mental causation The experience of conscious will is always an illusion. Conscious thoughts do not cause actions. . and our feeling of having willed an action is generally correct. We may always be wrong.
• “All feeling of doing is an illusion” (Wegner 2002).Wegner makes a spectrum of claims: From The mind’s best trick: how we experience conscious will: • “Does this mean that conscious thought does not cause action? It does not mean this at all …The point made here is that the mind’s own system for computing these relations provides the person with an experience of conscious will that is no more than a rough-andready guide to such causation…” (Wegner 2003). It seems we have selves. It seems we have minds. . it seems to each of us that we have conscious will. It seems we are agents … it is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion” (Wegner 2002). From The Illusion of Conscious Will: • “The fact is.
Conscious Will is always an illusion Wegner’s boldest claim. “I’ll have a piece of candy”. Common fallacy: “post hoc propter hoc” -. Actions usually follow conscious thoughts. But the causal relation is an illusion. Also possible: A and B have a common cause.if A follows B. then we eat a piece of candy. We think. B caused A. . Hence we conclude the thoughts cause the actions.
.The Theory of Apparent Mental Causation Unconscious thought produces conscious thought. Conscious thoughts and actions have common cause: unconscious mental processes. Conscious willing of actions is an illusion. Unconscious thought produces action. Unconscious processes also produce the feeling of having consciously willed an action.
How the illusion is generated .
Vol. 10. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10. 47-57(11). 10 (October) Abstract: http://www.fr/COURS/MSC/Libet-JCS1999. Max (2002) “Preconscious free will”. 42-61.org/3382/1/Cogprints_PRECONSCIOUS_FREE_WILL.htm Searle. Free Action and the Brain”. pp.html#John .co. Journal of Consciousness Studies.imprint.Readings for next week Focus: Libet.pdf Extra: Velmans. John (2000).free. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7. Benjamin (1999) “Do we have free will?”. No.uk/jcs_7_10. Numbers 8-9. Volume 6. http://cogprints. “Consciousness. http://pacherie.
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