The importance of the Readiness Period for speech, listening, and decision making

Libet gave participants of his experiments a simple task, while measuring their brain activity: they had to decide to flex a finger whenever they wished, and note the position on a fast-moving clock at the precise moment they took the decision.

The result was that the brain showed activity at least 400ms before the participants became aware of their “decision making.”

Here’s a diagram showing what’s going on:1

“RP” stands for “Readiness Potential,” that is, the supposed build-up in brain activity before the decision to act and the subsequent action. What we see is that this brain activity starts before the participants became aware of their intention to flex the finger.

The results have led the no-Free-Will crowd to [falsely] exclaim, “see, everything is driven by your brain, and you taking decisions is just an illusion!”

However, this seems to be a typical case of taking something very specific and isolated out of context and then drawing conclusions based on existing biases.

link

The exercise of free will in basic FIML is done during the “Readiness Potential” period described above. FIML done with a partner is an exquisite exercise of free will that completely changes how we speak and listen for the better. FIML is somewhat difficult because it requires being aware of the Readiness Potential period close to its onset. But this can be learned with practice. Buddhists or others who practice mindfulness may find this part of FIML to be rather easy. From this point of view, FIML can be described as mindfulness shared by two people, or pair-work mindfulness. FIML mostly focuses on interpersonal speech and listening but also includes all other interpersonal semiotics. More posts related to FIML and brain science can be found here. ABN

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