Flashes of Nondecisionmaking

post by lionhearted · 2014-01-27T14:30:26.937Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 34 comments

If you crash a bicycle and cut your knee, it bleeds. You can apply pressure to the wound or otherwise aid in clotting it, but you can't fully control the blood. You can't think, "Body! I command you not to bleed!" Nor can you directly say, "I choose not to bleed" through pure will alone.

This is easy enough to understand. We don't have direct control over our blood. We can apply some measure of indirect to it -- taking aspirin might thin the blood, breathing deeply and relaxing might slow the pulse and the flow of blood slightly -- but we do not have direct and instant control over the flow of our blood.

That's our blood. It's quite a personal thing, when you think about it.

At the same time, there's a view that we have full control and choice over our actions in a given situation.

I no longer believe this to be the case.

We can staunch the flow of bleeding through applying pressure, a cloth, perhaps slowing down our pulse and bloodflow through lowering stress and deep breathing. But we can't, in the moment, command or control blood by force of will or mind alone.

Likewise, I'm starting to believe we have lots of indirect control over our patterns of action in our lives, but perhaps less control and command in individual moments.

When a person rolls out of bed, they usually do very similar things each morning. How much control or command do they have -- mentally or analytically or however you want to define it -- over these actions?

Not much, I'd say.

Yet, they have immense indirect control, similar to blood flow. If you normally lay out your clothes the night before, and you lay out running clothes instead of work clothes, and set your alarm for an hour earlier, your chances of running go up a lot. There still may be an element of choice or self-command when you decide to run or not, but it's very possible there wasn't choice or self-command available if you did not rearrange your environment with that sort of indirect pressure.

I had an experience recently that was incredibly distressing. It was strange and very unpleasant at the time, but I'm now thankful for it.

I was at a convenience store when I realized I was in the process of buying some junk food and energy drinks.

My mind recognized this, but seemingly had not so much say on what's going on. My legs were just walking the familiar convenience store aisles near my home, picking up two of this energy drink, one of that pack of peanut M&M's, and so on.

I don't know if I could have stopped the pattern and put the items back in the moment. At the time, I was shocked to realize that I was watching myself act, but I hadn't stopped and started thinking or pondering. My legs and hands were working seemingly slightly independent of myself.

At the time, it was like a bad dream, or some sort of miserable and crazy experience. I shrugged it off -- strange things happen, you know? -- but I kept thinking about it periodically.

I'd been training in meditation and impulse control a lot over the last six months, and been studying and experimenting a bit about how our minds work and cognitive psychology.

My realization now, quite a while later, is that the distressing experience at the convenience store -- "what the hell is going on here, I am seemingly not controlling my actions!"-- was actually the beginning of a flash of a greater awareness of my day-to-day life.

I believe now that we're constantly in nondecisionmaking mode. We're constantly running patterns or taking actions without conscious command or choice, similar to blood running from a cut.

This process can be managed indirectly and affected, including in the moment it's happening if we're aware of it. But oftentimes, we don't even know we're metaphorically bleeding. We're just doing things, some of them "smart", some of them stupid and harmful.

I've had more flashes of awareness, seeing myself running mechanical patterns during times I normally wouldn't have noticed them. Briefly, here and there. I've been sometimes able to radically course correct and do something entirely different. Othertimes, I try and fail to do something different. I haven't had a moment as puzzling as that first convenience store one.

There's perhaps two takeaways here. The first is that greater training in awareness and meditation can lead to "waking up" or noticing the situation you're in more often. You probably already knew that.

But the second and more important one, I think, is the idea that things that seem like choices aren't always so. We don't choose to bleed if we cut our knee. Once we realize we're bleeding, we can apply indirect pressure, de-stress, use external things like cloth or bandages, and otherwise manage the situation. We can also buy more protective clothing or improve our technique for the future, so we bleed less. But we can't simply say "Body, I command you not to bleed" nor "I choose not to bleed" if we are, in fact, bleeding.

Indirect influence and control, immense amounts. More than most people realize. Direct influence and control? Perhaps not as much as commonly believed.

34 comments

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comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-27T16:02:09.894Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes.

There's a related process of confabulation where, not only do we placidly go along with what we're doing under the default assumption that we chose to do it, but we retroactively edit our memories of having intended to do things to bring them in line with what we subsequently did, and otherwise to create the illusion that we're in control.

Recovering from major brain trauma is a particularly vivid way to experience one's conscious self "taking credit" for things that it has nothing at all to do with, IME. I have a lot of amusing-in-retrospect memories of experiencing "Hey, I just figured out how to do X! Aren't I clever!" for Xes (like being able to move my leg) that had nothing whatsoever to do with "figuring out" anything.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-27T15:02:44.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe now that we're constantly in nondecisionmaking mode. We're constantly running patterns or taking actions without conscious command or choice, similar to blood running from a cut.

This is one of the main theses of The Power of Habit.

When a rat first navigates a foreign environment, such as a maze, its brain is full of activity as it works to process the new environment and to learn all the environmental cues. As the environment becomes more familiar, the rat's brain becomes less and less active, until even brain structures related to memory quiet down a week later. Navigating the maze no longer requires higher processing: it has become an automatic habit.

The process of converting a complicated sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as "chunking", and human brains carry out a similar process. They vary in complexity, from putting toothpaste on your toothbrush before putting it in your mouth, to getting dressed or preparing breakfast, to very complicated processes such as backing one's car out of the driveway. All of these actions initially required considerable effort to learn, but eventually they became so automatic as to be carried out without conscious attention. As soon as we identify the right cue, such as pulling out the car keys, our brain activates the stored habit and lets our conscious minds focus on something else. In order to conserve effort, the brain will attempt to turn almost any routine into a habit.

comment by jimmy · 2014-01-27T21:19:25.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Funnily enough, we can control our bleeding more directly. .

Think vasoconstriction. If you can learn how to access your bodies ability to use vasoconstriction it can work pretty well. I've met a guy that knows how to think bleeding away (while he was awake at least, he would start bleeding again in his sleep). I've also used suggestion to help stop my girlfriends bleeding to surprising success (the doctor asked why the cut hand was so cold!).

While the main point of "you can't just bark orders all the time" stands, it does point out anther avenue for turning indirect work into a fairly direct avenue through being more aware of what your body functions feel like so that you can communicate with them.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-31T11:54:05.322Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've also used suggestion to help stop my girlfriends bleeding to surprising success (the doctor asked why the cut hand was so cold!).

If you do things like that I would take care to revisit the issue a few days or a week later to make sure that the blood flow in the hand is alright and the experience didn't taught your girlfriend to permanently have less blood flow in that hand. You might even measure the temperature in both hands with a thermometer.

Physical trauma + specific suggestion that solves a problem is a straightforward way to install long term behavior.

comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2014-01-28T12:24:55.276Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

he would start bleeding again in his sleep

This does seem like a downside.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-31T11:47:11.964Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You wouldn't want permanent vasoconstriction, so it's quite useful that the body has means to shut it off. If you reduce blood flow to reduce bleeding that a temporary solution and not a permanent one.

comment by khafra · 2014-01-28T17:18:50.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a really interesting article. As a cognitive engineer, do you know of any caveats before assuming a trance and trying to offer helpful suggestions when someone's in confusion and stress for psychological, rather than physical, reasons (social anxiety, triggered PTSD, etc.)?

comment by jimmy · 2014-01-31T21:55:01.369Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ChristianKI mentioned the two big classes of caveats I'd worry about. The first being "be very mindful of what message you're conveying". If you view it as a big bad scary problem, they'll probably pick up on that. It's a good thing to be in a "calm" and attentive state yourself. But this principle applies more generally - its better to be mindful of what presuppositions you might have so that you don't accidentally communicate them when they're not helpful

The second is that the first thoughts on what suggestions would be helpful might not be right. Simple suggestions to "feel better" can be problematic for a few reasons (they don't take it and you lose trust if you're missing the big reason why they have the symptom, they try to take it but that underlying reason still nags at them, or they really do take it and whatever information was in there is lost). Coherence Therapy is the nice clean solution there. I recommend looking through some of their case examples and generally not pushing too hard on any suggestion unless you really get whats going on.

ChristianKI mentioned that sometimes the best thing can be to spend some time in the unpleasant state (and I agree). The caveat that comes to mind there is to make sure they don't feel pushed into that state (either from you or from themselves). If you're sitting there feeling bad and on top of that hating the fact that you feel bad (but doing it because you think you have to), then it's not gonna go so well.

I guess the "offer, don't push" one is one of the important heuristics to start out with if you want to make sure you do no harm.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-30T23:04:35.860Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If some external factor triggered the emotion, remove the stressor. Provide a safe environment for the person you are trying to help.

If someone is really confused the most helpful thing is often simply to be in a stable state yourself.

If you are "trying to offer helpful suggestions" the word trying suggest that you yourself go into a state of exerting effort. If the person you are "trying" to help picks up the fact that you aren't sure what you are doing that isn't helpful.

A hypnotherapist once told me that an emotion usually lasts 90 seconds if it's not renewed by the person. For myself process through the emotion of a lost family member took longer than 90 seconds less than 10 minutes of being present with the emotion and allowing it to express themselves in a environment with capable individuals that gave the necessary stability.

Depending on your relationship to the person and their present state, a hug or other physical contact can be helpful.

If someone has a triggered PTSD it's not like a wound where you have to stop the bleeding. It might very well be the best thing for the person to process the emotion that comes up in that moment. Being 10 minutes in a very uncomfortable state isn't enjoyable but might be the best option for the person. You don't want to give suggestions that push the person out of the state if there's no danger.

comment by katydee · 2014-01-28T01:59:06.069Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you please reformat this post so that it uses the default LW font?

comment by Alicorn · 2014-01-28T02:59:00.674Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done.

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-27T21:08:40.460Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Related:

Zen sometimes emphasizes this: Instead of emphasizing the content of sitting, they emphasize the act of sitting. You can’t complete the act of sitting; it’s ongoing, and you have to be with that process.

You can’t really complete life, either. Objects, goals, content keep coming up. And that’s fine. Work with those objects, use them, think about them, manipulate them when you can. But you can’t complete life. There’s no winning move. So can you viscerally, tangibly, deliberately, feel into the act of living, spend some time taking the reins of the usual automaticity, moment to moment, and feel into the process, the how of how you’re living. Or, feel into the how of how you’re approaching a particular act of living (taxes, job, etc.)? And guide that “how”? Adjust its trajectory a little bit, for the better? The quality of the process? Adverbs: Cleanly, gently, impeccably, lovingly, more relaxed, more ethically, more willingly, more open, more aligned… whatever palette, whatever wordless qualities you want to draw upon, or feel into, or call out to you, or you’re drawn towards…

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-01-27T17:17:06.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"We may think we are doing -- indeed, we think we are doing at every moment -- but IT is doing. Our mechanical being is doing" -- Maurice Nicholl.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-28T12:30:38.345Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But “it” is you.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-28T12:55:33.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nicoll is speaking in the context of the Gurdjieffian tradition, a.k.a. Fourth Way. "Mechanical being" is a technical term of that tradition and does not mean our physical embodiment. In his words:

Mechanical being is all that a man is, that is, his false personality (his imaginary I, which includes all qualities he attributes to himself, his many contradictory I's, attitudes), his personality, and his undeveloped essence. In other words, a man's being is characterised by multiplicity or lack of unity, lack of consciousness, lack of free will, lack of ability to do. This means that when life changes, circumstances change, at every event, our I's change and different ones surface; they take the centre stage and are unaware of the previous I or I's that were there; each I has its own desires and makes decisions accordingly; there is no control, no permanent Real I. In myself, I notice that my public face is friendly, helpful, cooperative, whereas my domestic face is argumentative, selfish, and small-minded. I am generally unaware of the transition and have little or no control over it. This is the state of my mechanical being. A person who changes rapidly between the I's, who is easily offended, or who easily beomes negative has a weak being.

Real being is that of a conscious man. He is characterised by unity, by the possession of one permanent Real I; he has the power to be different, he can do. However, in extreme conditions a mechanical person may experience a moment of Real I. For example, in times of prolonged stress, great fatigue, extreme danger or illness, a person's usual fears, or worrying what others think of him, or usual self-preoccupations, disappear, and his feeling of himself changes. However, for such a state to become permanent a man must work very hard and long on himself.

These paragraphs include other technical terms, which are hyperlinked at the linked site.

Translated into the terminology of the tradition of LessWrong, he is talking about NPCs and PCs. The purpose of the Fourth Way teachings is to show people their nature as NPCs, the existence of the PC nature, and a way to achieve that state.

I make no claims for the efficacy of their methods, I just happen to have some acquaintance with the books.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-01-28T20:24:27.812Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How many billion neurons sure in your head? Are you sure they sum to one entity? Are you sure there is only one entity when you observe you?

comment by nshepperd · 2014-01-28T13:06:37.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a valuable response to the obvious interpretation, but perusing the source material (here) it looks like the quote was actually meant to describe psychological phenomena like habit formation, which is fairly reasonable. Probably. The source seems rather mysticised.

comment by fortyeridania · 2014-01-27T18:31:29.673Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But we can't simply say "Body, I command you not to bleed" nor "I choose not to bleed" if we are, in fact, bleeding.

But what if we ain't got time to bleed?

Also, I have never considered my circulation to be a particularly personal thing. Perhaps this is because my circulatory system is so similar to everyone else's. However, your point holds for other things that I (and I suspect others) do consider personal, like emotions and personality. People have long-term influence on them, but typically lack immediate control.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-27T18:52:53.771Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For my own part, I consider my emotions pretty similar to everyone else's, also.

comment by fortyeridania · 2014-01-27T19:03:41.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey, I feel exactly the same way! :)

If people's emotions are basically similar, then their uniqueness must not be the source of (at least my) considering them to be more personal than my circulation.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-27T19:36:50.440Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup, that seems to follow.

comment by CCC · 2014-01-27T19:44:08.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For my own part, I consider my emotions pretty similar to everyone else's, also.

How do you know?

For my part, I strongly suspect that my emotions are not the same as anyone else's. I've had a discussion, elsewhere on this site, about how different people think; and it's really bought home to me how utterly, indescribably different the inside of someone else's head can be. I mean, we label certain behaviours as 'happy' or 'sad' or whatever; but all that we observe, really, is the consequences of the emotion - we don't directly observe the emotion itself. We can't, not being telepathic.

(I also suspect that my emotions tend to be a little subdued as compared to the human average; I base this on the fact that my reactions to said emotions seem to be more subdued that I have seen in other people).

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-28T03:22:53.355Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(shrug) Naturally, I don't know for sure.

And even if I were telepathic, I wouldn't know for sure that what I sensed other people as feeling was really how their feelings feel to them, as opposed to just how my telepathy interprets how their feelings feel to them. For that matter, I don't even know for sure that my emotions feel the same from moment to moment; it might be that when my emotions change my memories also change.

And there's some precedent here. I've had the experience of thinking that my emotions were similar to other people's emotions, and then later changing my mind. For example, before my first experience with grief, I saw people experiencing grief and understood them to be experiencing what I thought of as sadness, and figured they just called it grief because someone they loved had died and that's what we call sadness under those circumstances. Then someone I loved died, and I realized that no, grief is a different feeling... and have since then had the experience of feeling grief in unexpected situations.

So, maybe you're right. Heck, maybe there are thousands or millions or billions of distinct human emotions that we call "sadness", but no one person ever experiences more than one of them, so we mistakenly conclude that we're all experiencing the same emotion.

But in the absence of evidence indicating that, I'll probably go on assuming there's just one entity.

comment by CCC · 2014-01-28T07:14:08.391Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For that matter, I don't even know for sure that my emotions feel the same from moment to moment; it might be that when my emotions change my memories also change.

While not impossible, that seems a bit of a stretch. Emotions can change, memories can change; but that they do so in sync seems rather unlikely.

But in the absence of evidence indicating that, I'll probably go on assuming there's just one entity.

I think you've provided evidence in that very same post:

For example, before my first experience with grief, I saw people experiencing grief and understood them to be experiencing what I thought of as sadness, and figured they just called it grief because someone they loved had died and that's what we call sadness under those circumstances. Then someone I loved died, and I realized that no, grief is a different feeling... and have since then had the experience of feeling grief in unexpected situations.

That is to say, you thought you understood the emotions of others; then you realised that your understanding of emotions had been incomplete, and updated it.

The emotions of others didn't change in that interval; what changed was that you had experienced grief.

...

Mind you, I'm not sure it really makes all that much difference, whether you think other people's emotions are the same as yours or not. Other people's emotions are presumably as important to them as yours are to you; though the fine shading of exactly what they feel like may be different, sadness is still unpleasant and happiness is still pleasant. (Fright is an interesting one; I personally find it very unpleasant, but I notice that some people choose to go and watch horror movies).

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-28T14:20:00.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Emotions can change, memories can change; but that they do so in sync seems rather unlikely.

Oh, I don't know. It doesn't seem unreasonable to speculate that, rather than store a complete representation of my subjective emotional experiences in memory for every moment I remember, what my brain actually does is store references to my range of possible emotional states, such that when my range of possible emotional states changes I experience all of those memories differently.

But I certainly agree that it's not a parsimonious explanation. Simpler to posit that my brain only has one set of emotions which it uses at all times. Similarly, simpler to posit that for a set of two brains that share an architecture.

That is to say, you thought you understood the emotions of others; then you realised that your understanding of emotions had been incomplete, and updated it. The emotions of others didn't change in that interval; what changed was that you had experienced grief.

Right, absolutely. I received evidence that my previous emotional range didn't actually map effectively to someone else's, and I updated my beliefs accordingly. There are other cases of that as well... for example, I've never been a parent, but from watching the behavior and self-reports of my friends who have children, I'm pretty sure that the emotional relationship between parents and their children, though we call it "love", is not really the same thing as the other emotional relationships we call "love," and is probably something I have never experienced.

But I don't conclude from that that none of my emotional experiences map to anyone else's. In the absence of any evidence that my experience of sadness is different from other people's, I go on assuming that there's just one entity.

Mind you, I'm not sure it really makes all that much difference

Agreed. But you asked me why I believe what I believe, so I tried to answer.

comment by CCC · 2014-01-28T19:21:18.986Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I don't know. It doesn't seem unreasonable to speculate that, ... what my brain actually does is store references to my range of possible emotional states

Huh. That sounds... very reasonable, really. Of course, it requires that your emotional states be quantised, seperatable into neatly labelled boxes.

It's possible.

But I certainly agree that it's not a parsimonious explanation. Simpler to posit that my brain only has one set of emotions which it uses at all times. Similarly, simpler to posit that for a set of two brains that share an architecture.

Hmmm. There is a lot of evidence that other people's brains do not, as a rule, share the same architecture. See Generalising from one example for a brief discussion of the matter; or have a look at this comment thread in which Baughn and I try to find out just how different the way we think is. It's very different, to the point where we both appear to have some trouble understanding how someone can think like that.

There's certainly enough evidence to satisfy me that a lot of people's brains work in different ways; I'd go so far as to think that the way human brains work probably varies more-or-less about as much as people's faces do; that is, there are certain features all arranged in more-or-less the same manner, and you might find one or two who are very similar, but no-one's ever exactly the same.

And since emotions are very likely affected by neural architecture, I assume a similar level of variability there. It's not that my emotional experiences don't map to anyone else's; it's that the map is merely a poor approximation, and not a representation of someone else's genuine emotional state.

I'm pretty sure that the emotional relationship between parents and their children, though we call it "love", is not really the same thing as the other emotional relationships we call "love," and is probably something I have never experienced.

I've been told that the ancient Greeks had different words for different types of love; romantic, familial, etc., etc. This strikes me as very sensible.

Agreed. But you asked me why I believe what I believe, so I tried to answer.

Quite. This is a very interesting discussion.

comment by fractalcat · 2014-01-31T10:13:06.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, indeed, we don't always have conscious control over the same set of things over which we intuitively believe we have conscious control. That's the foundation of (among other things) the difference between System 1 and System 2 in the biases literature. It's also (as Kaj_Sotala noted) one reason habit is such a powerful influence on human behaviour, and the reason things like drug addiction exist. But how could it be any other way? Brains aren't made of magical-consciousness-stuff, they're physical, modular, evolved entities in a species descended from lizards.

I'd be interested in hearing more about the methods you've found effective for noticing the semiconscious decisions that you're making and how you've evaluated their effectiveness.

comment by ahel · 2014-02-01T22:21:38.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had more flashes of awareness, seeing myself running mechanical patterns during times I normally wouldn't have noticed them. Briefly, here and there. I've been sometimes able to radically course correct and do something entirely different. Othertimes, I try and fail to do something different.

Has happened to me different times and I tried to achive that presence of mind more consistently. Obviously, that it's not even far easy: my current approach is to use this approach and my results are inconsistent. But I'm keeping track on those moments, maybe I'll get some results in the long run.

comment by MondSemmel · 2014-01-29T12:10:51.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Feedback: This post would benefit a lot from references to the relevant science, e.g. ego-depletion theory, the science of habits, the Systems 1 and 2 described e.g. in Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, and so on. And corresponding discussions on LW. Or even just from name-dropping them!

Right now this post sounds more idiosyncratic than its contents should be, right up to the title of the post.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-01-29T05:12:31.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yep, I think the standard approach to self-improvement is just to apply a lot of effort, try harder, etc. and see if you can self-improve that way, but in reality your brain is a complicated system that requires intelligence, self-awareness, note-taking, etc. in order to hack.

comment by benkuhn · 2014-01-29T04:31:18.166Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I noticed the same thing recently and have been trying to pay attention to how it works. Meditation increasing agency is something I've noticed as well.

The other useful thing I've discovered is that if I take the daily review that I used to do at the end of the day ("how did today go? what went well? what could have gone better?") and write things down as they come to me during the day--and try to think of things to write down as stuff is happening--this seems to push me more towards agency-mode and waking-up. (Unfortunately it's often inconvenient to take things and type them out in the moment. I'm working on streamlining this.)

comment by tristanhaze · 2014-01-30T01:46:53.091Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems well below the standard often reached here. The writing seems very sloppy and telegraphic... for instance, of course we can say and think 'Body, I command you not to bleed'! It just won't do anything.

And: 'At the same time, there's a view that we have full control and choice over our actions in a given situation.' - This seems a bit like a strawman. What's the view exactly? Who has ever held it? And why should not being able to stop bleeding at will constitute a counterexample? No one normally classifies bleeding as an 'action'.

And regarding the two 'takeaways': you acknowledge that the first is probably not very new or important, and the second, as you've summed it up (second last paragraph), seems incredibly trite. We can't choose to not bleed. OK. Things that seem like choices aren't always so. OK, that seems true too, but also trite, and the bleeding thing doesn't seem like an example: who ever thought you could stop bleeding at will, who ever thought there was any choice?

I think Lesswrong can do better than this.

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-27T19:13:23.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Heh. This is the old discussion about freedom of will.

The correct answer to the question of freedom of will is "shut up!" :-)

comment by maia · 2014-01-27T20:06:38.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, this discussion is substantially different, actually. It's not about the metaphysics of "do we REALLY control our own actions, even when we're trying to? I mean REALLY?" It's more like, "Under what circumstances is our brain even consciously thinking about what we're doing, and under what circumstances are we just operating out of habit?" You don't have to have an opinion on the metaphysics of the thing to have an opinion on the physical reality and physical question: do we think in a self-aware way about most things, or not?