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On Habit Learning in Neuroscience and Free Will

Abstract

The notion of habit learning in Neuroscience implies the automation of an action, which thus discharges consciousness from the supervision of its performance and eventually restricts flexibility. It has also been assumed that habit learning is against free will, as it has been suggested for pathological conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. This point of view, which might be controversial with other notions of habituation, could be an interesting context to analyze at what extent human actions emerge from free will and are consciously carried out. The well-known experiments performed by Benjamin Libet and replicated by others have led some scientists to deny the concept of free will in the human being. However, we think that these experiments posit further questions that should be tackled from a broader point of view. For example: does the readiness potential univocally point to the initiation of any kind of action? Can it be also found in non-deterministic novel actions? Is it causally related to the action, or is it just a “mental rehearsal” of the action to come? In this contribution, we will try to make a note on these topics in order to explain the neuroscientific concept of habit learning and to relate it to free will in a broader and more philosophical interdisciplinary framework.

Keywords

  • Libet
  • Habit learning
  • Neuroscience
  • Basal ganglia
  • Habit
  • Aristotle
  • Thomas Aquinas

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Correspondence to Javier Bernácer .

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Bernácer, J., Giménez-Amaya, J.M. (2013). On Habit Learning in Neuroscience and Free Will. In: Suarez, A., Adams, P. (eds) Is Science Compatible with Free Will?. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5212-6_12

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