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Neural precursors of decisions that matter—an ERP study of deliberate and arbitrary choice

Maoz, U. and Yaffe, G. and Koch, C. and Mudrik, L. (2018) Neural precursors of decisions that matter—an ERP study of deliberate and arbitrary choice. . (Unpublished)

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The onset of the readiness potential (RP)--a key neural correlate of upcoming action--was repeatedly found to precede subjects' reports of having made an internal decision. This has been taken by some as evidence against a causal role for consciousness in human decision-making and thus as a denial of free-will. Yet those studies focused on purposeless, unreasoned, arbitrary decisions, bereft of consequences. It remains unknown to what degree these specific neural precursors of action generalize to deliberate decisions, which are more ecological and relevant to real life. We therefore directly compared the neural correlates of deliberate and arbitrary decision-making during a $1000-donation task to non-profit organizations among subjects prescreened for social involvement. While we found the expected RPs for arbitrary decisions, they were strikingly absent for deliberate ones. Our results and a drift-diffusion model we constructed are congruent with the RP representing the accumulation of noisy, random fluctuations, which drive arbitrary--but not deliberate--decisions. The absence of RPs in deliberate decisions further points to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary decisions and thus challenges the generalizability of studies that argue for no causal role for consciousness in decision making from arbitrary to deliberate, real-life decisions.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
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URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Koch, C.0000-0001-6482-8067
Alternate Title:Neural precursors of deliberate and arbitrary decisions in the study of voluntary action
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. All rights reserved. No reuse allowed without permission. bioRxiv preprint first posted online Jan. 1, 2017. We thank Ralph Adolph for his invaluable guidance and support in designing and running the experiment as well as for very useful discussions of the results. We thank Ram Rivlin for various conceptual discussions about deliberate versus arbitrary decision making and about the initial experimental paradigm design. We thank Caitlin Duncan for her help in patiently and meticulously gathering the EEG data. We thank Daw-An Wu for discussions about EEG data collection and preprocessing and for his help with actual data collection. We thank Daniel Grossman for his help in carefully preprocessing the data and suggesting potential interpretations of it. We thank Ueli Rutishauser for discussions about the model and its simulations. We thank Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg and Leon Deouell for important discussions about EEG processing and analysis. Last, we thank the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments, which greatly improved this manuscript. This research was supported by Florida State University's Big Questions in Free Will Initiative, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, to U.M., G.Y., and C.K.; by the Ralph Schlaeger Charitable Foundation to U.M.; by the Bial Foundation to U.M. and to U.M. and L.M.; and by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development to L.M.. C.K. thanks the Allen Institute founders, Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen, for their vision, encouragement, and support. Author contributions: U.M, L.M, G.Y., and C.K. conceived the project and designed the experiments. L.M. and U.M. analyzed the results. U.M. designed and simulated the model. L.M. and U.M. wrote the manuscript. G.Y. and C.K. suggested revisions to the manuscript. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
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Florida State UniversityUNSPECIFIED
John Templeton FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Ralph Schlaeger Charitable FoundationUNSPECIFIED
German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and DevelopmentUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20181026-150202535
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:90441
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:26 Oct 2018 22:28
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 20:25

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