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Theory Of Free Will Through Experimentation

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Benjamin Libet decided to approach the concept of free will through experimentation. He was interested in determining whether or not we have any independence when it comes to our choices and actions, or whether what we assume is our own is, instead, determined by the known physical laws. To do this, Libet had subjects voluntarily flick or move their wrist whenever the urge to do so was present. They were also told to look at a modified faster moving clock and record the exact moment when the urge to move their wrist was present. This was repeated through 40 trials. What was being measured through each of these trials was the “readiness potential” or RP. The RP is the signal sent from the brain telling the wrist to move. Libet was able to record the onset of this electrical impulse. To do so, he placed a DC system with an active electrode on the scalp of the subject, as well as the left side of their scalp. He then compared these times with the times indicated by the subject of their first conscious thought about the action. With these times, Libet discovered that the onset of RP averaged at about -550 msec. He also found that the “W” or willingness of the subject to act began at about -150 msec. This number was consistent even when the subjects reported preplanning when to act before the trial. This means that the impulse to act that came from the brain came before the conscious thought. This could imply that we may not have the independence in decision making as we once
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