Free will frees

Are you commander of your fate and captain of your soul? If that is what you think then you will be astonished by new research from the Universities of Marseilles, Gent, and Padova which has proven that humans have no free will but that our lives are in fact controlled by biphasic bursts of radiation believed to be sourced from the Pleiades and which bounce from the Sun’s corona to control human thoughts and therefore actions. If you are amazed by this, then … April fool! Aside from being a childish hi-jink (perhaps a jape?) this introduction does actually relate to a real news story arising from the universities mentioned and to do with free will and how it influences your life.

Whether or not human beings have free will has been a subject for philosophical debate ever since Og argued with Ug over his desire to shorten his loincloth. Famously the philosopher John Stuart Mill said, “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. Regardless of any elevated debate on the subject each one of us has an opinion on this subject. Look within yourself and you will find that at the core of your bring are beliefs about what determines the course of your life.

It might be that you believe God shapes your life path. Perhaps you believe that your destiny was cast at birth by the astrological energies. Maybe you feel that karma shapes your experience this time around or perhaps you believe that you have the free will to navigate your through, or regardless of, any or all of these influences. Like it or not, at some level you either believe you have free will or you believe that you don’t and that belief itself affects you at a deep brain level.

The effects of your beliefs regarding free will have been studied by researchers from the universities listed above. To do this they used a phenomena called “readiness potential” which is a negative electrical wave that fires without you being aware, at an unconscious level, in preparation for the brain making you move your body. Milliseconds after that readiness potential wave flows through your brain, your brain then consciously signals the muscles to do what you want. A stronger readiness potential makes action easier and more likely while a weaker one has the reverse effect.

For the study the researchers divided their subjects into two groups; one group were given a text to read which told them that scientists had discovered that free will is an illusion (a bit like the opening paragraph to this article but a touch more believable). The second group just read a passage about consciousness with no mention of free will. Both groups were instructed to read carefully in preparation for a quiz.

The subjects then performed a task involving pressing a button whenever and however many times they chose while indicating on a touch-screen the instant that they became aware of an intention to act. As they did this an EEG measured their brain activity.

After all of this the subjects were then given questionnaires that measured their belief in free will and determinism both for themselves and for people in general.

The results showed that people who had read that free will did not exist had a weaker belief in their own free will and ability to control their lives. The brain scans showed that these people had reduced unconscious brain activity prior to making a decision to act in the experiment. So at a deep, unconscious brain level a lack of belief in the power of free will depletes your brain’s ability to prepare for action.

As the researchers observed, even if it is incorrect (if such a concept has any validity) it is still better to live believing that you have free will as this will then free up your ability to act, and therefore, to live. Go free people, free as the wind!

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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