Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
tarav: On p 92 Gazzaniga explains how studies by Libet seem to suggest that our brain decides to do things before we consciously decide to do them.
Hmm. I don't have the book before me, but as I recall, the experiment which suggested this functioned in part by having subjects indicate the moment when a conscious decision was made while simultaneously measuring activity in the correlated parts of the brain. Personally, I'm not sure how such a test would conclusively suggest that our brains make decisions before we become consciously aware of them. Gazzaniga and company may have good reasons for drawing that conclusion, but I don't see them here.
A few questions arise. One is, how are we sure that the subject's indications are trustworthy? I'm not debating the conscious trustworthiness of the subjects involved, but rather their ability
to accurately indicate when they have made a conscious decision. I'm reminded of the old Disney cartoon in which a "slow-motion" shot of Goofy deciding to apply the brakes in his car demonstrated the problems of reaction time and the nervous system (it was also funny, by the way). Another question is how the neurologists are certain that the measured activity is actually the termination of the decision, rather than some other sort of mental activity involved in the decision-making process.
marti1900: Tarav, I have read many studies that show that activities that have nothing to do with a specific emotion can in fact trigger that emotion, such as cutting onions can actually trigger a feeling of sadness.
Not to undercut the neuro-chemical explanation of the phenomenon, but isn't it also possible to credit the reflexivity of human thought? Our emotions are, in part, fed by our awareness of our emotional responses. Take for example the case of a person in a situation causing them sadness. They tell themselves that they won't surrender to the emotion -- they won't cry. They hold out for however long, but the moment a single tear rolls down their cheek, the torrent bursts forth. The awareness of the response intensifies the reaction -- in part, it intensifies the emotion, and precisely because we're made undeniably aware
of the emotion. Knowing -- admitting -- that we are sad or angry can provoke us to be fully so. It seems equally likely that knowing that we are having the same response that we would in certain emotional situations can provoke the emotion itself. To give another example, might not the tears caused by cutting an onion remind a person of the last time the cried out of genuine sadness?