The neurobiology of decision-making and responsibility: reconciling mechanism and mindedness

Front Neurosci. 2012 Apr 23;6:56. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00056. eCollection 2012.


This essay reviews recent developments in neurobiology which are beginning to expose the mechanisms that underlie some elements of decision-making that bear on attributions of responsibility. These "elements" have been mainly studied in simple perceptual decision tasks, which are performed similarly by humans and non-human primates. Here we consider the role of neural noise, and suggest that thinking about the role of noise can shift the focus of discussions of randomness in decision-making away from its role in enabling alternate possibilities and toward a potential grounding role for responsibility.

Keywords: compatibilism; determinism; free will; lateral intraparietal area; motion perception; noise; policy; responsibility.