Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to interview several neuro-scientists—all of whom are considered to be at the top of their game. I have taken one observation to them all with this question, “Where is free will?”
Here is the problem. Using fMRI to watch the brain live time we discover that a technician can know what you will decide six or more seconds before you know what your choice will be. Think about that!
Just imagine that you were the subject and you have a selection switch in your left hand and another in your right and an alternative appears on a screen before you while your brain is watched using fMRI. You consider the alternatives for a moment, make your choice, and squeeze the switch. All seems good—but the technician has recorded your choice correctly seconds before you made it. How is that possible?
Well the fact is this: your non-conscious has made the decision for you before your conscious mind has retrieved that decision. This should cause us all to begin to examine what it is that we believe, what it is that that vast reservoir of information contained in our non-conscious has tucked away guiding our decisions and how do we access the data and change the output?
There is nothing more important when it comes to free will than owning it and you cannot own what you don’t know! Not only is that true—but what you don’t know can really destroy your highest ambitions!
The data is clear, if you believe that you are tasting a great wine when in fact it is a cheap wine, this prejudice alone will actually change your brain function “causing you to experience the cheap wine in the same physical way as the expensive wine…the actual chemistry of the brain changes.” 1
Our beliefs, conscious and non-conscious, are so powerful that your belief can literally regulate the effect of nicotine. Research shows that if you think you are smoking a nicotine free cigarette that your brain will process the nicotine without ever exciting a reward pathway. To quote a recent study, “Nicotine has formidable effects throughout the brain, especially in the reward-based learning pathways. Nicotine teaches the brain that smoking leads to reward. Once the brain learns that correlation, the addictive chemical cycle is difficult to break. In this study, scientists tracked the brain responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging…The scientists found people who believed they had smoked nicotine had significantly higher activity in their reward-learning pathways. Those who did not believe they had smoked nicotine did not exhibit those same signals.” 2
So the next time you think about free will—question what you mean by “free?” Who after all is in charge of your choices, your decisions, your beliefs?
Thanks for the read, and if you want more information on this sort of thing, see my book, “I Believe: When What You Believe Matters!”
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions