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8. Togetherness: Hacks 75–80 > 80. Act Without Knowing It

Act Without Knowing It

How do we experience our actions as self-caused? It’s not automatic; in fact, the feeling of consciousness may indeed have been added to our perception of our actions after our brains had already made the decision to act.

Place your hand on the table. Look at it as an object, not unlike just about anything else on the table. Now, raise one of your fingers. Why did you raise that one? Can you say? Was it a free choice? Or was the decision made somewhere else, somewhere in your brain you don’t have access to? You experienced your finger being raised by you, but what was it in you that caused it?

If you record EEG readings [Electroencephalogram: Getting the Big Picture with EEGs] from the scalps of people just about to decide to raise their fingers and at the same time make them watch a timer and remember at what time they experienced deciding to raise their finger, they’re found to report that the experience of deciding to raise their finger comes around 400 ms after the EEG shows that their brain began to prepare to raise their finger. 1 Stimulating particular parts of the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation [Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Turn On and Off Bits of the Brain], you can influence which finger people choose to move, 2 yet they still experience their choice as somehow willed by them, somehow “theirs.”


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