Who Rules Our Decisions or the Neuroscience of Free Will

Being free, is the power to have the choice. Turns out to create this freedom within ourselves is hard work and a muscle one has to build (see brain science stuff below). The muscle is the muscle of awareness and of mindfulness. Being present in every moment. Truly open and not fixed by our trained behavior. We all have the tendency to live our lives on autopilot. Please read this short summary below inspired by an article I read from Anthony Bannister/Corbis; Stefan Gruschke from GEO magazine. My offer and heartfelt advice. Practice this muscle of free awareness and have the choice to be fully free.
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11 million pieces of information per second flood our senses even if we are just laying at the beach dosing in the sun; the warmth of the sun on our skin, a wave crashing onto the beach, sound of the waves and the far voices of the wind. The impressions are being send by as many million nerve cells to our brain. Constantly. And so many of these impressions demand a fast decision. Into the shade? Thirst? Turn? Swim?

Now think about your day to day situations, stress, traffic, job, family. The consciousness can handle only about 40 perceptions at the same time (acc. to psychologist and brain research Dr. Christian Scheier). Consciousness focuses only on a tiny clip of our complete life movie. The rest we omit due to a shortage of processing capabilities. At large our “auto-pilot” takes over and we are driving with automatic on cruise control. A cooperation that runs so smooth we don’t even notice it the vast majority of our lives.

There have been studies done to predict participant actions before they make them. One of the pioneering studies in this domain was designed by Benjamin Libet (The Libet experiment, follow the link for a great Youtube animated video) in the 1980s. In the experiment recording of the brainwaves show, that the neurons in the participating brain regions fired before the participants felt the urge to act, hence were conscious of their decision and coming action. Their brains were faster. More precisely their subconscious. And this with a lead of half a second, an eternity in the brain.

So what does this all mean? Each conscious articulation of a wish / action is preceded by an unconscious process. Our conscious only has available 0.0004 percent of the received information. The “autopilot” / subconscious provides however the larger brain performance and controls and steers our behavior implicitly.

Before you feel like an out of control zombie. There is hope so to say. Of course we have the chance to influence the auto-pilot behavior. Just milliseconds before the decision we are able to veto (acc. to German biologist and brain researcher professor Gerhard Roth).

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