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Libet and free will
Posted: 04 February 2010 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi Everyone.
In the few John Grinder seminars I have attended he has mentioned Libet’s experiment about Readiness Potential (RP) occurring several hundred (500) milliseconds before conscious awareness of the decision (or at least an awareness of the moment when conscious awareness is apparent) which poses questions about the subsequent implications for our definitions of free will. My initial thoughts are that :
1)  What would the result be if the decision was more ‘important’? In Libet’s experiment the outcome does not matter i.e. there are no gains, then how might the result be different from a decision where there are differing levels of payoff associated with movement at different points. If this were to involve more ‘upfront’ consciousness then if it were a simple decision that with practice could then be delegated to the unconscious how might the result change over time?
2)  Is there not brain activity associated with the conscious awareness and how does this map to the reported conscious awareness?  If there is movement without conscious decisions does this mean that RP does not exist in these instances or we just never gain awareness of the decision because we do not need to e.g. driving on automatic.

Interested in any views/comments on the above or even the bit I haven’t even thought about yet which is the philosophical question of free will.

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Posted: 04 February 2010 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Rebecca,

I find Stephen Wolfram’s remarks about free will very interesting, not directly NLP related. They are not a core of his book (a pretty thick one), though. The book is available for free on http://www.wolframscience.com

Cheers
Dymitr

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Posted: 04 February 2010 10:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks Dymitr - I’ll add it to my ever expanding reading list!

Rebecca

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Posted: 05 February 2010 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hi Rebecca I have been in two minds whether to keep this book to myself although I have offered it once before on another forum. Two minds - ha ha!!!! just caught that metaphor smile Anyway if you are interested in a cutting edge neuroscience debate not to mention a plethora of ideas for your own work I offer you this. Its not cheap but neither is quality…

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=m5fnyjc4KBwC&dq=the+new+unconscious&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=wWNrS4XECY2y0gSCibzbBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=&f=false

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Posted: 05 February 2010 01:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Rebecca - 04 February 2010 12:09 PM

Hi Everyone.
In the few John Grinder seminars I have attended he has mentioned Libet’s experiment about Readiness Potential (RP) occurring several hundred (500) milliseconds before conscious awareness of the decision (or at least an awareness of the moment when conscious awareness is apparent) which poses questions about the subsequent implications for our definitions of free will. My initial thoughts are that :
1)  What would the result be if the decision was more ‘important’? In Libet’s experiment the outcome does not matter i.e. there are no gains, then how might the result be different from a decision where there are differing levels of payoff associated with movement at different points. If this were to involve more ‘upfront’ consciousness then if it were a simple decision that with practice could then be delegated to the unconscious how might the result change over time?
2)  Is there not brain activity associated with the conscious awareness and how does this map to the reported conscious awareness?  If there is movement without conscious decisions does this mean that RP does not exist in these instances or we just never gain awareness of the decision because we do not need to e.g. driving on automatic.

Interested in any views/comments on the above or even the bit I haven’t even thought about yet which is the philosophical question of free will.

I have just realised the book posting didn’t answer either of your two questions although I suspect it might. For my own development though I would like to have a stab if you don’t mind nudging me in the right direction if I misunderstand…

1) If the decision is “more important” I think the unconscious is in a far more profitable position to make that decision. Not sure what you mean by the rest of it - I am kinda thinking N step for the whole thing but would welcome clarification - why would you need upfront consciousness?

2) In the book I posted it suggests consciousness is the sum total of processes that happen afterwards - a feeling of “knowing”, an illusion that we are in control. My current understanding is that consciousness can review stuff but is limited. I do not know of any studies measuring stuff that people “dream” up which would be a function of the conscious mind although I am sure they exist. I think my current suspicions rest upon a conscious mind creating stuff that could/might exist and an unconscious mind operating off what does/has and will. If I am out on any of this I would appreciate some guidance

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Posted: 05 February 2010 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hi Rebecca,

I have just realised the presence of one aspect of your questions which is really important for me (or for my understanding of your point of view): you consider a free will of whom? Do you equate yourself with your consciousness while considering the free will phenomenon? (or human self with his/her consciousness/conscious mind?)
I would be especially interested if you have found another solutions than implied by my questions

Dymitr

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Posted: 05 February 2010 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Many thanks for this Alistair - I did a quick preview and it looks good and accessible.

Rebecca

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Posted: 05 February 2010 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Hi,
I’ve realised my last post was a couple of posts behind.
Firstly, I am just exploring some of the issues by considering what I think it would be interesting to know or consider. Alistair I am in no position to offer guidance as I feel that I am still just finding some shapes and features in the candlelight - I probably need to read at least the book you recommended!

So my questions are :

1) are there decisions where RP does not precede conscious awareness of the decision (this is what my rather lazy attempt to explain came up as ‘upfront consciousness’)? One test of this could be made (I’ve suggested) by amplifying the importance of the decision which is why I have associated some form of variable payoff and I’m almost wandering into the game theory domain about rational players and utilities which must involve conscious decisions(?) and wondering about how to design an experiment to test this and if anyone has done this.

2) From a slightly different angle - When first playing a new code game e.g. the alphabet game - where does the decision which arm/leg to raise come from i.e. would we see RP before conscious awareness? Is it that there is a conscious realisation (based on visual information presented) of the need to move say the right arm but the ‘motor’ decision of when to move the right arm is an unconscious one?  (or is this an unhelpful division?).  (and if this is the case, with practise does the conscious realisation get relegated to the unconscious - which is why the values of the variables need to change?). This has led me on a slight diversion to another question about how new code games work which is probably left to a different post (but is the point to focus the conscious attention on the game whilst eliciting an unconscious response which is in ‘congruence’ with the conscious mind?)

3) Dymitri - the only small amount that I have read on free will (resulting from Libet) is that it is defined as the consciousness and only that. For me the question in this specific example is ‘just because RP appears before an awareness of conscious awareness does it necessarily imply that the unconscious mind is in charge of the decision?’ I guess that is one of the reasons why in 2) above I have made a distinction between a conscious awareness of the need to move the right arm (because those are the rules of the game) and the decision to move the right arm. Is there a valid distinction here? because if there is could it weight the ‘yes there is free will’ argument.

Any further thoughts?

Rebecca

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Posted: 05 February 2010 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks

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Posted: 07 February 2010 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Hi Alistair,

There is a nice and maybe controversial(?) definition of conscious processes hidden on page 80 of the book you mentioned: they are those about which you can (are able to) report verbally. Is it close to your understanding of the matter?

Dymitr

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Posted: 07 February 2010 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hmm. I’m only up to about chapter 7 of the book itself so I would be reluctant to commit to anything pertaining to an understanding yet. What I think I understood by the chapter is that if you cannot demonstrate awareness of “x” then you wouldn’t be able to report it verbally and therefore leads to an unconscious perception. Subliminal perception never reaches consciousness so could never be reported verbally. However just because something does not reach awareness does not mean one cannot pay more attention to “x” probably through explicit intention making it available to conscious processes. This is what I currently make of it, I am not sure if I have misunderstood or simply missed something but I didn’t perceive any controversy in that chapter really. My current understanding is that conscious processes must involve awareness, a feeling/sense of knowing which can either be missed or ignored, or paid attention to. A disclaimer though - I am very new to this level of thinking so they are all and probably always will be suspicions open to movement. I find the book useful because it increases my own awareness of the rich depth of unconscious processing all around us and within us. Do you mind if I ask why you found it potentially controversial?

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Posted: 07 February 2010 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Rebecca - 05 February 2010 07:02 PM

Hi,
I’ve realised my last post was a couple of posts behind.
Firstly, I am just exploring some of the issues by considering what I think it would be interesting to know or consider. Alistair I am in no position to offer guidance as I feel that I am still just finding some shapes and features in the candlelight - I probably need to read at least the book you recommended!

So my questions are :

1) are there decisions where RP does not precede conscious awareness of the decision (this is what my rather lazy attempt to explain came up as ‘upfront consciousness’)? One test of this could be made (I’ve suggested) by amplifying the importance of the decision which is why I have associated some form of variable payoff and I’m almost wandering into the game theory domain about rational players and utilities which must involve conscious decisions(?) and wondering about how to design an experiment to test this and if anyone has done this.

2) From a slightly different angle - When first playing a new code game e.g. the alphabet game - where does the decision which arm/leg to raise come from i.e. would we see RP before conscious awareness? Is it that there is a conscious realisation (based on visual information presented) of the need to move say the right arm but the ‘motor’ decision of when to move the right arm is an unconscious one?  (or is this an unhelpful division?).  (and if this is the case, with practise does the conscious realisation get relegated to the unconscious - which is why the values of the variables need to change?). This has led me on a slight diversion to another question about how new code games work which is probably left to a different post (but is the point to focus the conscious attention on the game whilst eliciting an unconscious response which is in ‘congruence’ with the conscious mind?)

3) Dymitri - the only small amount that I have read on free will (resulting from Libet) is that it is defined as the consciousness and only that. For me the question in this specific example is ‘just because RP appears before an awareness of conscious awareness does it necessarily imply that the unconscious mind is in charge of the decision?’ I guess that is one of the reasons why in 2) above I have made a distinction between a conscious awareness of the need to move the right arm (because those are the rules of the game) and the decision to move the right arm. Is there a valid distinction here? because if there is could it weight the ‘yes there is free will’ argument.

Any further thoughts?

Rebecca

Hi Rebecca, looking at your questions many may well be answered by that book - I for one would love to hear peoples thoughts/questions on it. As far as your questions go I think you may be paying too much attention to the role/importance of conscious processes. I suspect it would be impossible for no pre - activity to occur before awareness of anything (I may be wrong). Again I wouldn’t trust conscious processes with a barge pole for an extremely important decision - it can only be aware of an extremely limited amount of information at any one given time. This is the curse of the western world that we need to consciously analyse important decisions. If you wanted to buy a house and used your conscious attention to analyse what you wanted, what you didn’t want, what you liked, what you didn’t like etc. If you break that down you could be looking at months trying to figure it out and you may distort, generalise and delete much of it to the point that the experience of the house gets obliterated. I think that is a long winded way of asking: what is your intention for wanting to demonstrate free will by completely separating the conscious/unconscious mind? Your unconscious makes decisions beyond anything you can probably currently perceive and does it. You may be aware of it after wards or during but I do not think it can come first. I would pay more attention to allowing the unconscious to do its stuff and focus on ways in which the tiny conscious mind can enhance the relationship without getting in the way - that’s about as close as you will get to the concept of free will IMO

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Posted: 07 February 2010 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Alistair_Donnell - 07 February 2010 02:41 PM

Do you mind if I ask why you found it potentially controversial?

I assume we both speak about conscious/unconscious distinction I extracted from the page 80.
1)  It is not very explicitly stated in the book, as if the author evaded a positive definition what in fact consciousness or awareness is (at least I have such an impression). I had only access to the google shortcut, so it is possible I have missed a very direct definition of consciousness present on the book
2) Second reason is its simplicity: consciouss process is the one which is at least on the verge of involving linguistic transforms, ie f2.
3) Acceptance of such a definition implies a possibility of presence of many consciousnesses in one body, otherwise in the hypnotic trance there would be no place for a comment: “oh, the conscious mind is so arrogant” wink

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Posted: 07 February 2010 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Aah ok. Anything past this point if it continues will be fluffy at best but your clarification has given me a usual pleasant sensation of pain from confusion. Bit like smacking two marbles together in the hope that they will eventually soften and merge…

1) The whole book is a collection of essays written by different people on specific aspects. The first chapter deals with the issue explicitly although I can’t quite remember how. Stuff like this completely blows my mind I can only handle about half - full chapter at a time then need to “forget” about it and let it settle before going back

2) That chapter is geared more towards debunking Holender and his definition of subliminal. I am not sure they are saying it has to be verbal to be conscious just that this is what they have used as evidence of awareness. It is a welcome distinction though and something I will definitely be paying attention to. I still need to get my head around FA, F1 and F2 and I think following this comment I am going to put more effort into that before reading the rest of the book

3) I’m not sure I understand this but with perseverance I am sure I will. In the mean time though my initial reaction is even the environment creates many consciousnesses and that’s before hearing someone elses let alone your own and lets not even get in to a conscious experience that exists before you can categorise it. Think I will stop there before I derail :/

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Posted: 07 February 2010 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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smile

If you come accross any straightforward definition of consciousness in this book or elsewhere, please, let me know. I’d be very grateful.

Dymitr

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Posted: 07 February 2010 10:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Lol!

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