How much Free Will do we have?

How much Free Will do we have?


Consider the following situation. Here we have Jerry. He was a young, newly married, promising stockbroker. One day his boss offered him some narcotics,
and Jerry chose to accept. He quickly became addicted, eventually lost
his job, was divorced from his wife, became homeless, lived in the forest and one day
was mauled by a bear. People said well, Jerry acted of his own free
will. He played with fire and he got burned. But let’s go back a little bit. How much free will did Jerry really have? Addiction causes certain brain changes that
make you crave the drug very strongly, and damages your prefrontal cortex, the part of
the brain that allows you to inhibit impulsive behavior. However, that’s not what I’m talking about. Did Jerry have the free will in that moment
to make the decision not to accept his boss’s nefarious gift? “No, no thank you, though.” Let’s rewind the tape. Jerry just got a job as a junior stock broker
and his boss invites him to have a drink after the 4PM bell. He had a dinner date planned with his wife
for her birthday, but that’s not until a bit later and he figures he’ll be done by
then. What he really wanted to do right after work
was take a quick nap because he’s a bit sleep deprived. But, he doesn’t want to disappoint his new
boss. He ends up having a couple drinks with his
boss and some other new colleagues. It’s been a while, Jerry still hasn’t
eaten, and it’s getting late. Jerry’s looking at the clock when he realizes
his phone is seconds from dying, so he pulls up his wife’s number and tries to remember
the digits by repeating them in his head. While he’s trying to hold onto the digits,
he starts to get up to go pee and suddenly his colleague Tom and his boss invite him
to partake in inserting white powder into his nose. This makes Jerry uncomfortable, he’s never
done this. His boss and colleague are looking at him
expectantly and Jerry says “No, I better not.” Tom says “C’mon Jerry, everyone here does
it. We have three servings ready just for you.” Then his boss says “Yea it’s how we stay
ahead of the game. And this is the good stuff so it’s not dangerous. Just give it one try.” Jerry looks at his boss, then at the clock,
then at Tom and he nervously says “OK… Just a little bit.” And, that’s how Jerry got his foot in a
door he couldn’t close. So was Jerry totally in control here? Did he have the free will to just say “No”
instead? Well, first off, when all this happened, Jerry
was in the midst of trying to hold onto his wife’s number in his head. Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking, Fast
and Slow” says that “Several psychological studies have shown that people who are simultaneously
challenged by a demanding cognitive task and by a temptation are more likely to yield to
the temptation.” He explains that if someone were asked to
remember a list of seven digits, then is offered the choice of sinful chocolate cake or virtuous
fruit salad, the evidence suggests that “you would be more likely to select the tempting
chocolate cake when your mind is loaded with digits.” The other thing is that Jerry didn’t get
a full night’s rest. Brain scans have shown that when you’re
lacking sleep, the neurons firing in the prefrontal cortex begin to slow down. The prefrontal cortex is particularly important
in problem solving, reasoning, decision making, and inhibiting inappropriate or immoral behavior. As Kelly McGonigal points out in “The Willpower
Instinct,” sleep deprivation impairs how the body and brain use glucose. Unless someone is in the rarer state of ketosis,
glucose is the main fuel source for the brain. McGonigal says impairing glucose utilization:
“is bad news for self control, [self control is] one of the most energy-expensive tasks
your brain can spend its limited fuel on. Your prefrontal cortex, that energy-hungry
area of the brain, bears the brunt of this personal energy crisis.” Then, Jerry hasn’t eaten yet. Obviously this means less energy available
for the prefrontal cortex. There are special glucose-detecting brain
cells that are constantly monitoring the availability of energy. When the brain detects a drop in the energy
supply, self-control is the first expense to be cut. It is not entirely necessary for survival,
and is one of the most energy expensive tasks the brain performs. As Kelly McGonigal says “To conserve energy,
the brain may become reluctant to give you the full mental resources you need to resist
temptation.” Not only this, research at the University
of Gothenburg found that ghrelin – the “hunger hormone” actually has a negative effect
on both decision making and impulse control. Next, Jerry’s colleague Tom is actually
from the same college as Jerry. This is significant because, work by Dan Ariely
shows that we are more likely to go along with immoral behavior if people like us are
also doing it. Beginning in 2002, Dan and his collaborators
began a series of studies on lying. They would give people 20 math problems and
asked them to find the two non-whole numbers that add up to ten. These are problems that anybody could solve
if they had enough time, but participants are given only 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes they are told
to put their pencils down and count how many they completed. Then, they were to take the sheet of paper
and shred it. They were asked how many problems they finished
and got paid 1 dollar for each problem. As you’d expect, participants cheated a
little bit and lied saying they completed more problems than they really did. In one of these experiments, there is an actor
who stands up within the first 30 seconds of starting and says he’s finished all the
problems. He goes up, gets paid for completing all the
problems and leaves the room. He is obviously cheating and just showed that
you can easily get away with it. This experiment was run at Carnegie Melon. Everyone participating is a Carnegie Melon
student, but the actor who blatantly cheats right away is dressed in a University of Pittsburg
sweatshirt. What happens? The subjects know that it’s very easy get
away with cheating, but they don’t think people like themselves are doing it. When the actor appears to be a Carnegie Melon
student like everyone else however, cheating goes up. So it wasn’t really about getting caught,
but it’s about what’s socially acceptable in their circle. The next thing is that the person offering
Jerry the narcotic is an authority figure – Jerry’s boss. A famous experiment known as the Milgram experiment
demonstrates that people are surprisingly obedient to authority figures, even when it
comes to immoral behavior. Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist
began experiments on this in July 1961. One famous experiment had a subject sit in
a room with a microphone and a device that the subject is told delivers painful electric
shocks. These shocks were being delivered to another
person in another room who the subject was to give quiz questions to via the microphone. Whenever the other person got a question wrong,
the subject was supposed to give a shock and then increase the voltage. The subject could hear that the person was
in pain, but this was actually pre-recorded audio, and no one was really receiving shocks. With each increase in voltage, the yells of
pain from the electric punishment got more and more intense “….take it off, I’ve had
enough of this!” and then at some point there was no more response. If the subject hesitated to continue delivering
the shocks at any time, the leader of the experiment, who was in the room and wearing
a white coat said there was no permanent damage and calmly asked them to please continue. Before the experiment, It was predicted that
only 1% of subjects would continue administering shocks until they got to the highest voltage. While the subjects giving the shocks were
clearly uncomfortable- biting their fingernails, stuttering, sweating, trembling as the experiment
proceeded, The results were that 60% of the subjects went on to administer all the shocks
up to a final deadly 450 volt shock. Milgram said that “relatively few people
have the resources needed to resist authority.” Lastly, Jerry had to pee. A study published in the journal “Consciousness
and Cognition” by Michael Ent and Roy Baumeister found that the more people needed to pee,
the less they believed in the concept of free will. This is part of a type of psychological research
known as “embodied cognition” that shows that the states of our bodies influence how
we consider the world around us. If someone had a brain tumor and they suddenly
start doing impulsive things, we might say that the tumor has compromised their free
will. Now, Maybe someone else in Jerry’s position
would have said No, But, could we consider the combination of all these little unnoticed
factors to be compromising Jerry’s free will? Then, What about unnoticed factors influencing
our everyday actions? We feel that we are the conscious controllers
of our moment to moment decisions, but what if you could dig up all the unconscious factors
contributing to these decisions? Would you feel less like you had free will? Maybe one morning you say “you know what,
I’m gonna be spontaneous and have a peanut butter jelly sandwich for breakfast instead
of my usual eggs.” You might think that this exciting new choice
is an expression of your free will, but what if it’s just something your unconscious
decided for you based on things you weren’t aware of? For example, You’ve been hearing the name
Jerry a lot which has you thinking of Jelly. When you were at the grocery store yesterday,
you saw that peanut butter was on sale, and there was a Reese’s peanut butter cups ad
playing on TV last night. Also, the gradual addition of more sweets
to your diet is causing you to crave sweeter foods in general. But you’re not actually aware of any of
these things in the moment, you just feel like you , the master of your mind, decided
to have a PBJ. So, the question is: If unconscious factors
are driving your decisions, would you still call that free will? If this question interesting, stick around
for my next video as it will explore in depth whether or not we have free will, and why
it matters.

100 thoughts on “How much Free Will do we have?

  1. Just because there are outside forces that can influence us doesn't mean that they decide for us.

    I could crave a pb&j but decide against it because I tell myself I need to stick to my meal plan.

    In the authoritative experiment, people were uncomfortable and fought with themselves on whether they should continue or not, that most chose TO continue, doesn't mean they didn't have a choice in the matter.

  2. Since free will is an illusion, I recon that surrounding myself with goal oriented thinkers and informative media will help improve my decision making.

  3. How many people here had a PB&J sandwich after the video? How many of you just even wanted to? And then how many of you crazy people hate PB&J?

  4. I believe most everyone has free will, but it is easily masked and manipulated by the plethora of 1,000's of influences we see in our day-to-day lives. It's why some encourage others to meditate and to cut back heavy influences, such as toxic people, sugary foods, drugs, etc. You always have the option to jump from the bridge or not. Just because the thought of your family makes you feel guilty and so you don't jump, doesn't mean you're any less capable of actually jumping. Tomorrow is another day.

  5. The real question here is WHY DID WE EVOLVE THE ABILITY TO BELIEVE IN THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL AND WHY ARE WE BEGINING TO BREAK FREE FROM THIS ILLUSION

  6. People who are interested in the topic of free will should really read Sam Harris' argument in his short book; Free Will

  7. If someone say to you, that you don't have free will, you still have a choice: to believe or not. You can give up- you have no impact, but neither no sense of guilt. Or you can decide to take responsibility- create human person in yourself. That's a long way, needs much efford and no one will said you how. But first, you probably need to pee 😉

  8. I don't define my free will on the decision I make here and there…i feel certain paths lead to certain hardships/struggles. Free will is choosing which path, not so much the decisions along the path. I guess I would call free will  the "awareness of avoiding instinct."

    I would also venture to say that any present decision is based on prior decisions, making it not so much an act of free will, which is what this video portrays.

  9. "I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier's second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — 'the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts' — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will." -William James

  10. i was tired, hungry, thirsty and desperately needed to pee when i got into an argument with my girlfriend and shot her. No free will = no accountability for my actions?

  11. You should check out Sam Harris's book called Free Will, and I'd love to know what you think about it. It's short, and it explains how we don't have free will and that it is an illusion.

  12. Computers don't have free will. Our brains are biological computers. Therefore we don't have free will. Unless of course you believe in a "soul" or some "higher power" that exists outside atoms

  13. I think that this video tries to detach us from the responsibility of our decisions and then deals with the philosophical concept of "free will". I like the idea that self-control is very consuming for the brain and this explains a lot what happens when we are tired. Firstly I think a guilt process should exist in our mind, but it shouldn't affect our self-esteem… so there should be a balance between them and it should help us concentrate to follow our goals. Secondly, for the free will part… well, it's all about your personality. You can say that you got influenced by a tv ad to buy some jelly, but then again it's in your personal traits that you get easily influenced by a commercial. It might not be a food, it could be a game, a travel experience, a new tv series etc. …. the part that is happy eating that jelly is a part of you, so when you are trying to control yourself from doing that, you are really fighting with a hard subconcious trigger that is inside you. And then you blame yourself that you don't have a free will … In my personal view to say that you have free will or not it's not really relevant, you are a machine which want's to survive the cocktail of emotions that are fighting in your brain… so there is no free will in your guilty pleasures but only in your personal and moral values which sum up the more rational part of your brain and which is keen on continuous learning. * even the act of writting this comment might not be a free will action, but I know what my goals are in doing it… so there is a plan in every action 😛 which in the end was based on a personal will.

  14. We have free will. We may not be able to control our impulses in the short-term, but in the long-term. Different from other animals, we can plan, study and train our mind and body in order to achieve things. Our biggest weakness is the reason we give to justify the means. That's why you need to have emocional inteligence in order to know what you are feeling, craving and needing, because our so beloved "rationality" may bow to our instincts and fears.

  15. I love your videos, and I'm really not trying to be offensive against religious people, but I wonder what they would think of your free will videos and how many of your subscribers are religious in the first place.

  16. This should be broken down into sections

    1) the first part is talking about brain states
    2) the authority figure is not a state, but rather in influence. They are interpreted as influential (not directly so, but unquestioningly so, unmindfully so)

    I was hoping this was mainly focused on the 2nd part, but it's mainly based on the first one, which I have an issue with. Because this is all supposing that the individual in question hasn't worked hard at discovering their freedom. Basically, it's turning a blind eye to the opposite situation where freedom overrides and laughs at the authority figure. By turning a blind eye to that side, all we hear about are the scientific studies and take them as "truth". By taking them as truth, we draw a line in the sand to further questions. Such that we can say we have no free will, but we haven't questioned the studies themselves. Not their validity, but why we are more susceptible under those conditions, and how we can overcome those. This got longer than I meant it to be haha

  17. We have free will. Craving does not determine what you eat or if you're forced to eat it. While fasting, you will at least with me have cravings for food. I chose not to eat. That's free will.
    2 twins in the same exact family, they can be drastically different regardless of environmental being the same.
    Things like passion for subjects you have no control over and cravings for food but it's free will that makes you go through with your passion and or eat/not eat that craved food.

  18. I want PB&J, sugar and to overstuff myself now… however now that I've typed it, I have let it all out and won't – maximum willpower

  19. I love seeing people deny they have free will. it has got ot be one of the stupidest things people ver say.  Either you don't have it in which case you were predetermined to say and believe that, so who cares what you think/or say, or you do have it and you deny your own agency.

  20. Your question, 'Are all of our actions the result of being unconsciously manipulated by the function of our brains?', seems plainly obvious to me. The number and sheer complexity of the brains workings go so far beyond our conscious cognition. It seems obvious that we are by and large automatic creatures, with a decent proportion of our being dependent on mechanical processess.

  21. Jerry doesn't need free-will because he has white-will. He's not black and is a stock broker. "free-will is the basis of our CRIMINAL justice system" -Supreme Court.

  22. We have enough free will to live in a society without havoc breaking out every second.
    In a society of rules and regulations there will be consequences to actions that are 'totally' of free will.

  23. You're leading the witness by saying, "If unconscious factors are 'driving' your decisions…". By definition, all factors INFLUENCE the decisions of MINDFUL individuals despite the gravity of the factor and outcome.

  24. There are questions out there that do well to define free will like the billion dollar question. If you were offered 1 billion to change you mind, could you change you mind? If you could change your mind when offered the money, then it is a matter of free will.

  25. This is getting so old. You have free will, in fact, if you don't then the reasoning you used to determine that you don't isn't a trustworthy method. If choices and reasoning are 100 percent deterministic and can result in some believing you have free will and other minds deciding you don't even though both follow entirely deterministic processes set in motion from the big bang forward. Neither could be trusted if the same questions can be determined both true and false by solely physical deterministic processes. THIS SYSTEM WOULD PRODUCE CONTRADICTORY INFORMATION RENDERING THE RESULT MEANINGLESS.

  26. You know, I click ONE Sam Harris video and suddenly YouTube is recommending all these videos explaining how I don't have free will. Enough!

  27. Our subconscious is why we must expose ourselves predominantly to things and people which are up building to our character. The Bible warns us to have a well trained conscience or we will fall victim to the worlds atmosphere.

  28. There may not be spontaneuous free will, but human have te ability to plan. We can make plan fot th next month, sleep over it and change them for the better. What else if not free will is that?

  29. interesting point about the urge to pee… i remember on a reddit AMA about something with cults and one of the tactics that cults used was not allowing you to pee in order to convince you (/brain wash) you to join. Would be interesting if you make a video about that!

  30. Hi there, loyal subscriber from london England. I wanted to share the video you did on magic mushroom psilosybin but can't find it. Please could you link it. Many thanks. Sorry to post it again. Didn't know how to contact you

  31. Excellent points, tho if Jerry is still susceptible to peer pressure after finishing college, getting married and entering the workforce he was gonna end up mauled by that bear one way or another.

  32. Self control and free will are subtly different concepts that are used as though their interchangable. Virtually everyone would agree that we have some degree of self control and that it varies based on the situation. Free will debates usually center on whether we are responsible for anything at all ever in principle.

  33. lmao

    i was thinking of buying sauce from amz
    while watching this video

    u almost decoded my/our state of mind

  34. 4.08 how to reconcile the benefit of fasting and the negative effect of hunger on both decision making and impulse control?

  35. And what does Reagan admin do?!?! Destroy our lives and label us as criminals even though we’re functional citizens. Treat us like filthy dogs and throw us in cages…. thank you for these informative and thought provoking videos man.

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