You make countless decisions every day that range from mundane to incredibly important, but what part of you is actually making those decisions? We all assume that our brains are focused on whatever task we’re tackling, but a new study suggests that your brain is usually working a few steps ahead all on its own, and it makes your decisions long before you consciously think about them.
The study, which was published in Scientific Reports, reveals that what we often think of as free will and our ability to make decisions on the fly isn’t nearly as cut-and-dry. Your brain, it turns out, might be running the show largely in the background.
The experiment was fairly straightforward, tasking volunteers to decide between two patterns with different colors and orientations. Their brains were being monitored in an fMRI machine while the images flashed before their eyes, and the researchers were able to match brain activity patterns with whatever choice the subject was making.
That part isn’t particularly surprising, since scientists have long known that repeatable brain patterns can correlate with decision making. But what’s interesting about this research is that the team found the participants brain activity could predict their eventual choices before the individual was even asked to make a choice.