The concept of free will has been heavily debated in philosophy and the social sciences. Its alleged importance lies in its association with phenomena fundamental to our understandings of self, such as autonomy, freedom, self-control, agency, and moral responsibility. Consequently, when neuroscience research is interpreted as challenging or even invalidating this concept, a number of heated social and ethical debates surface. We undertook a content analysis of media coverage of Libet’s et al.’s (Brain 106(Pt 3):623-642, 1983) landmark study, which is frequently interpreted as posing a serious challenge to the existence of free will. Media descriptions of Libet et al.’s experiment provided limited details about the original study. Overall, many media articles reported that Libet et al.’s experiments undermined the existence of free will, despite acknowledging that several methodological limitations had been identified in the literature. A propensity to attribute greater credibility than warranted to neurobiological explanations could be at stake.
Racine E, Nguyen V, Saigle V, Dubljevic V. Media portrayal of a landmark. Neuroscience experiment on free will. Science and Engineering Ethics, 2017; 23(4), 989-1007