Does Free Will Exist?
Do humans have the ability to make their own choices and determine their own fates—a concept more commonly known as free will? Or are people's futures shaped solely by powers outside of their control? The question of free will has long challenged philosophers and religious thinkers, and scientists have examined the problem from psychological, biological, and genetic perspectives.
It’s still not clear whether or not humans actually have free will, and it has been shown that many behaviors are influenced by genetics, brain chemistry, and environment. Psychological research, however, suggests that believing in free will can be beneficial for mental health, and that reducing feelings of self-determination can make people more aggressive and less helpful.
Are We In Control of Our Own Decisions?
The free will debate has long been the domain of philosophers, but in recent years, neuroscientists and psychologists have entered the fray to try to understand agency at the level of neural circuitry.
Several seminal studies, for instance, have demonstrated that brain activity increases several seconds before a person becomes consciously aware of a decision. Some argue that this is an indication that people don’t have true free will. Others argue, however, that a freely made choice simply triggers the brain’s activity before an individual is consciously aware of it.