Free will without consciousness?

Liad Mudrik, Inbal Gur Arie, Yoni Amir, Yarden Shir, Pamela Hieronymi, Uri Maoz, Timothy O'Connor, Aaron Schurger, Manuel Vargas, Tillmann Vierkant, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Adina Roskies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Findings demonstrating decision-related neural activity preceding volitional actions have dominated the discussion about how science can inform the free will debate. These discussions have largely ignored studies suggesting that decisions might be influenced or biased by various unconscious processes. If these effects are indeed real, do they render subjects' decisions less free or even unfree? Here, we argue that, while unconscious influences on decision-making do not threaten the existence of free will in general, they provide important information about limitations on freedom in specific circumstances. We demonstrate that aspects of this long-lasting controversy are empirically testable and provide insight into their bearing on degrees of freedom, laying the groundwork for future scientific-philosophical approaches.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Early online date12 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • free will
  • voluntary action
  • unconscious processes
  • subliminal priming
  • decision-making


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