Science 2 min read

Neuroscientists Can Predict Decisions 11 Seconds Before We Act

This new study shows just how easy it is to predict how we act in certain situations. ¦ Pixabay

This new study shows just how easy it is to predict how we act in certain situations. ¦ Pixabay

As far as neuroscience is concerned, free will is overrated.

According to a paper published this week in the Journal of Scientific Reports, researchers in Australia can predict participant’s basic choices 11 seconds ahead of time. Here is how it happened.

The researchers showed two patterns – red horizontal stripes and green vertical stripes – to 14 participants placed in an fMRI machine. Then, they were asked to choose between the stripes within 20 seconds.

Upon making their decision, the participants had to press a button and visualize the pattern as hard as they could for 10 seconds.

Finally, they had to describe what they pictured and how vivid the imagination was. The participants were also required to press a button when answering the questions.

Between the fMRI monitoring the brain activities and machine learning analyzing neuroimages, the researchers had a pretty good idea which pattern a participant would pick before they consciously made the decision. Also, they could predict how vivid the participant’s imagination would be.

According to Joel Pearson, lead author of the study and cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of South Wales, the findings suggest that traces of the decision exist unconsciously before they become conscious.

In a statement to Medical Express, Pearson said:

“As the decision of what to think about is made, executive areas of the brain choose the thought-trace which is stronger. In other words, if any pre-existing brain activity matches one of your choices, then your brain will be more likely to pick that option as it gets boosted by the pre-existing brain activity.”

The cognitive neuroscientist believes that the study explains why thinking about a specific thing only leads to more thoughts on the subject. “It creates a positive feedback loop,” he explains.

Further understanding of our thought process could change how we communicate.

In the distant future, we could have brain-to-brain communication like telepathy, and make personalized movies that respond to brain waves pattern.

Right now, we’ll settle for a “brain-computer speech-to-text interface” – a technology that’s supposed to translate your thoughts into a computer screen directly.

Read More: Study Shows That AI can Predict hit TV Shows

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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    Dak Abdél March 12 at 12:17 pm GMT

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