When timing the mind one should also mind the timing: biases in the measurement of voluntary actions

Conscious Cogn. 2002 Jun;11(2):231-40; discussion 308-13. doi: 10.1006/ccog.2002.0559.


Trevena and Miller (2002, this issue) provide further evidence that readiness potentials occur in the brain prior to the time that participants claim to have initiated a voluntary movement, a contention originally forwarded by Libet, Gleason, Wright, and Pearl (1983). In their examination of this issue, though, aspects of their data lead them to question whether their measurement of the initiation of a voluntary movement was accurate. The current article addresses this concern by providing a direct analysis of biases in this task. This was done by asking participants to make subjective timing decisions regarding a stimulus that could be measured objectively. Our findings suggest that their timing task was indeed biased such that participants' tend to report events as happening approximately 70 ms later than they actually happened. Implications for the original Libet et al. claims are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Psychophysiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception