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Wegner V. Nahmias Essay

957 words - 4 pages

Mental processes have always been viewed as the key to unlocking further psychological information by philosophers and psychologists alike. By analyzing mental processes the notions of free will, desire, and the view of self can be further identified. Not willing to wait until such technology is developed that will easily be able to explain such information, Daniel Wegner a professor of psychology at Harvard has concluded through the use of his “I Spy” study that consciousness does not really have any influence or power of the actions of people. Contrastingly, a professor from Georgia State University by the name of Eddy Nahmias disagrees with Wegner and suggests that Wegner neither provides the correct type of evidence nor does Wegner distinguish between agency and authorship. Nahmias relies on empirical arguments to discredit Wegner’s conclusion that free will is an illusion.
Through a number of experiments Wegner tested his theory on the illusion of free will. In particular his “I Spy” study was the most successful for Wegner. In the “I Spy” study participants were led to believe that they had selected a certain object from a computer screen when in reality they had not. Wegner was able to have the participants do such a thing by getting the participants to think about the object a couple of seconds before they chose the object from the computer screen. The two participants would hear the names of a certain object when sitting at the screen of the computer which displayed a number of different objects. After listening to the name a certain object the participant was asked to stop the computer screen (from flipping through the objects) on any object they wanted. The participants are convinced that they chose the object themselves, however the object they have selected a majority of the time is the object that was mentioned to them right before the experiment. The results of this experiment led Wegner to conclude that conscious decision making plays nearly no role in establishing behavior. Instead, Wegner suggests that people only believe in free will when they identify a difference between a perceived action to do something in a certain way and if the actions result in something that was perceived to occur. He argues that confusing causality with correlation leads to the misconception of free will. Wegner claims that the easiness in fooling the participants in the study also shows that conscious free will is really an illusion of mental causation. That such experiments show the inability of the human consciousness to create behaviors. This in turn leads the thought that people on a daily basis overestimate how impactful people and other things in an environment can be.
On the other hand, Nahmias objects to Wegner’s claims that conscious free will is an illusion. Nahmias thinks that free will is compatible with determinism and that Wegner is incorrect in his...

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