Does your brain make decisions for you?
My first month without Media and Social networks.
You may ask — How is it going?
It’s OK. I am not feeling special or proud of myself. Just feel more productive and calm.
However, the anxiety I want to share with you is not about my ascesis at all. It’s about a predicament with the brain and the concept of “self”.
Let me walk you into it. In buddhism, they have the term Anatta, which refers to the doctrine of “non-self” and means that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings.
Warning! Don’t start to think about it deeply before you finish reading this article. You will go crazy anyway, but with more aspiration and collateral information.
It wasn’t the news for me that our rambunctious brain, supposedly, can make decisions for us. The first time I heard about it was at the lecture of Tatiana Chernigovskaya, where she was referring to the article “The mind’s best trick: how we experience conscious will” by Daniel M. Wegner. The main inference I got from it was this: our brain can create both the thought and the action, leaving us to infer that the thought causes the action. That means that we can act before we consciously decide to do so.
Moreover, our brain creates the thought which we perceive as a reason for our action.
If you are still reading, probably you are cognizant to this topic or insufficiently convinced.
In any case, another fascinating experiment will be interesting to you: “How the brain translates money into force”.
The participants were asked to squeeze the grip. They were said, that the harder they would squeeze it, the more money they would make. On each trial, it was to be randomly determined whether they earned a penny or a pound. Before they gripped the grip an abstract circular pattern appeared on the screen. The pattern would be replaced in the same circumference by an image of a coin (either a penny or a pound). In some of the trials it would be replaced for a fraction of a second, so there was no conscious awareness of having seen the coin. In other trials, the pattern would be replaced long enough to consciously see it. What they found in those cases was that even when people weren’t aware of having seen the coin, when the pound was shown, the people did tend to squeeze the grip harder. Furthermore, even subliminally (when people weren’t aware of having seen the coin) when the pound was shown, there was more activity in the part of the brain that was associated with motivation and emotion than when the penny was shown.
Subliminal!!! Which means that this decision of squeezing harder wasn’t made by “self”, because this “self” didn’t see the pound. It doesn’t necessary mean that we don’t have this “self” part, but our brain makes some of “our” decisions for us. Which we might somehow link to the doctrine of “non-self” from buddhism and still face the questions like:
Who the hell let our brain make decisions for us?
Where was this “us” when our brain was in charge?
What does this “us/self” mean?
Now it is time to go crazy! Don’t curse me. I’m sorry!