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Conscious Cogn. 2013 Dec;22(4):1271-84. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.08.011. Epub 2013 Sep 8.

Brain correlates of subjective freedom of choice.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK; Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


The subjective feeling of free choice is an important feature of human experience. Experimental tasks have typically studied free choice by contrasting free and instructed selection of response alternatives. These tasks have been criticised, and it remains unclear how they relate to the subjective feeling of freely choosing. We replicated previous findings of the fMRI correlates of free choice, defined objectively. We introduced a novel task in which participants could experience and report a graded sense of free choice. BOLD responses for conditions subjectively experienced as free identified a postcentral area distinct from the areas typically considered to be involved in free action. Thus, the brain correlates of subjective feeling of free action were not directly related to any established brain correlates of objectively-defined free action. Our results call into question traditional assumptions about the relation between subjective experience of choosing and activity in the brain's so-called voluntary motor areas.


Free choice; Introspection; Volition; fMRI

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