Thursday, October 13, 2016

Benjamin Libet

The relationship between thought and action is complex and uncertain. We have a perception of conscious choice that has been called "free will." And any one of us can have the sense of it as we make various decisions during the day. But what if those "conscious" decisions are actually self-deception arrived at in the brain prior to "conscious" decisions being made?

I can under no circumstances claim to have any direct insight into this matter, but have questions as to whether or not consciousness is arrived at due to thought ("I think therefore, I am,") or whether consciousness is arrived at through the processes of action and behavior.  Benjamin Libet did widely replicated experiments in which participants were instructed to push a button whenever they decided to while their brains were being observed through electroencephalogram.

He found that brain activity indicated the button was about to be pushed up to 300 milliseconds before the conscious decision had been made. Subsequent research using more sophisticated and advanced brain scanning equipment  has pushed the time lapse between the unconscious decision to act, and the conscious notice of it up to seven seconds, as described in this article, Brain Scanners See Your Decisions Before You Make Them.

How does this apply to education? If learning was only about thought, we might have one system of teaching kids, that would require them to sit at desks. If learning is more about what goes on in the unconscious mind, being directed by processes staged through action we might design a system of learning in which children were empowered to do real things, of service to themselves, their families and communities.

Even before I woke up this morning, the guitars I'm finishing knew that I would need to sand and apply another coat of finish. It was something in the finish itself, that led to the arrival of consciousness and a decision being made. It had dried slightly in the can and would not flow to a smooth finish without thinning.

In my own wood shop, I'm making boxes.

Today the Clear Spring School students will go on their fall camping trip. They were to go yesterday but were held back by rain.

Make, fix, create, and offer to others at least a slight chance of learning likewise.

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