Analysis of a choice-reaction task yields a new interpretation of Libet's experiments

Christoph S. Herrmann, Michael Pauen, Byoung Kyong Min, Niko A. Busch, Jochem W. Rieger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Benjamin Libet has demonstrated that the readiness potential precedes the time at which participants consciously decide to perform an intentional motor act, and suggested that free will is an illusion. We performed an experiment where participants observed a stimulus on a computer monitor and were instructed to press one of two buttons, depending on the presented stimulus. We found neural activity preceding the motor response, similar to Libet's experiments. However, this activity was already present prior to stimulus presentation, and thus before participants could decide which button to press. Therefore, we argue that this activity does not specifically determine behaviour. Instead, it may reflect a general expectation. This interpretation would not interfere with the notion of free will.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-157
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Feb
Externally publishedYes


  • Bereitschaftsfeld
  • Bereitschaftspotential
  • EEG
  • MEG
  • Voluntary action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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