The readiness potential (RP) is one of the most controversial topics in neuroscience and philosophy due to its perceived relevance to the role of conscious willing in action. Libet and colleagues reported that RP onset precedes both volitional movement and conscious awareness of willing that movement, suggesting that the experience of conscious will may not cause volitional movement (Libet, Gleason, Wright, & Pearl, 1983). Rather, they suggested that the RP indexes unconscious processes that may actually cause both volitional movement and the accompanying conscious feeling of will (Libet et al., 1983; pg. 640). Here, we demonstrate that volitional movement can occur without an accompanying feeling of will. We additionally show that the neural processes indexed by RPs are insufficient to cause the experience of conscious willing. Specifically, RPs still occur when subjects make self-timed, endogenously-initiated movements due to a post-hypnotic suggestion, without a conscious feeling of having willed those movements. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Conscious Cogn. 2015 May;33:196-203. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Jan 20. Schlegel A(1), Alexander P(2), Sinnott-Armstrong W(3), Roskies A(4), Tse PU(2), Wheatley T(2). Author information: (1)Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, HB 6207 Moore Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org. (2)Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, HB 6207 Moore Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. (3)Philosophy Department and Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, Box 90432, Durham, NC 27708, USA. (4)Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, HB 6035 Thornton Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.