Consciousness and Causality

From: Cozins, J.L. (
Date: Wed May 22 1996 - 21:46:08 BST


When we do something consciously we do it deliberately or knowingly,
but to do something automatically or without having to think about it,
is to do it unconsciously.

Libet devised an experiment to demonstate the relationship between
consciousness and cause. He asked a subject to stop a clock within
sixty seconds. Lets say he did this after 25; thus t=25. He then asked
the subject at what time he made the decision to stop the clock at 25
secs past. He said after 23; thus d=23. Therefore it would be decision
(d) before the time he stopped the clock (t) or to work out the
reaction time, t-d. But the motor action-m (the actual physical
stopping of the clock) also had to be considered. Logically the
decision to stop the clock would be made before the motor action
(d>m>t). However, this is where the experiment becomes problematic. The
motor action had already begun before the decision had been made. But
how could he have started to stop the clock before making the decision
to do so? Could it be due to the evoke potentials of the decision and
of the motor action -the signals sent from the brain and the build-up?
If this is the case, then the equation would alter and would now read
DEP>MEP>D>M>P. Therefore if the DEP caused the Decision and the MEP
caused the Motor action, then both of the evoke potential processes
would be unconscious ones, as you don't consciously decide to do
something. The action of stopping a clock should theoretically be the
result of a conscious decision, but the DEP and MEP must come first,
thus making it an unconscious one and also explaining the problem of
consciousness as a cause.

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