The Song Remains the Same: A Review of Harris’ Free Will
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A recent series of studies asked the question, “What if free will does not actually exist?” The authors acknowledge that the notion is frightening, but not new, as Wegner and Wheatley (1999) argued that the experience of making a choice is something the brain creates after the choice has been made. Essentially, our experience of free will is nothing more than post hoc causal inference that our thoughts caused some behavior. The feeling (of choice) itself plays no causal role in producing that behavior.
The position has remained relevant and empirically-supported up until the present day. Cognitive scientists have proposed that free will is the result of “background noise” (Bengson, Kelley, Zhang, Wang, & Mangun, 2014) in the brain before a choice is made, and that free will is a trick the brain plays on itself (Bear & Bloom, 2016). They describe the experience of making a choice as something the brain creates after a choice has been made. In computer-based, forced-choice, experimental...
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