Let me throw something into the conversation. Craig may have linked
this previously, but it needs closed inspection IMHO. Attention John Clark!
"Debunking people's belief in free will takes the intention out of their
Undermining a person's belief in free will alters the way their brain
prepares for a voluntary movement. Davide Rigoni and his colleagues, who
made the finding, aren't sure what the precise mechanism for this effect
is, but they speculated that bursting the free will bubble somehow
causes people to put less intentional effort into their movements.
Rigoni's team tested thirty participants on a version of Benjamin
Libet's classic task from the 1980s. This requires that participants
watch a dot proceed round a clock face, that they make a voluntary
finger movement at a time of their choosing (the current study had
participants press a button), and then make a mental note of the
position of the clock at the time they made their decision to move.
Libet's controversial discovery, replicated here, was that the brain
begins preparing for the finger movement several hundred milliseconds
prior to the conscious decision to move, as revealed by electrical
activity recorded via electrodes on the scalp. The finding implies that
free will is illusory.
For Rigoni's task, an additional detail was that half the participants
read a passage debunking our sense of free will (see comments for the
text) before they completed the Libet task. The other half acted as
controls and read a passage about consciousness that didn't mention free
read more at
These findings seem to me to be consistent with placebo
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo> and nocebo effect
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocebo_effect>s. The point here is that
"belief" is not just a belief! It is a difference that makes a difference.
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