Reality Check: More Evidence Against Free Will
This consistent finding has big implications for business, the professions and policy.
What Neuroscience Says about Free Will
The experience of intentionally willing an action… is often nothing more than a post hoc causal inference that our thoughts caused some behavior. The feeling itself, however, plays no causal role in producing that behavior.
This could sometimes lead us to think we made a choice when we actually didn’t or think we made a different choice than we actually did…Perhaps in the very moments that we experience a choice, our minds are rewriting history, fooling us into thinking that this choice—that was actually completed after its consequences were subconsciously perceived—was a choice that we had made all along… “Postdictive” illusions of this sort are typically explained by noting that there’s a delay in the time it takes information out in the world to reach conscious awareness: Because it lags slightly behind reality, consciousness can “anticipate” future events that haven’t yet entered awareness, but have been encoded subconsciously, allowing for an illusion in which the experienced future alters the experienced past.
….we may be systematically misled about how we make choices, even when we have strong intuitions to the contrary….A more speculative possibility is that our minds are designed to distort our perception of choice and that this distortion is an important feature (not simply a bug) of our cognitive machinery…
Yet, whether or not there are advantages to believing we’re more in control of our lives than we actually are, it’s clear that the illusion can go too far…
….our studies add to a growing body of work suggesting that even our most seemingly ironclad beliefs about our own agency and conscious experience can be dead wrong.