Chapman University Assistant Professor Uri Maoz and two post-doctoral researchers were featured on a PBS NOVA episode called “Your Brain: Who’s in Control?”
The episode interviews experts about topics like the brain’s unconscious activity, decision-making, and how the two sides of the brain interact.
Maoz is part of Chapman’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Brain and Behavioral Sciences and teaches in Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Schmid College of Science and Technology and Fowler School of Engineering. Alice Wong and Tomas Dominik, who were shown in the NOVA program, work as post-doctoral researchers at the Brain Institute.
In the episode, which premiered in May 2023, Maoz speaks about agency and control starting at the 35:52 mark.
“An agent is somebody that is the author of their own story,” he says. “But actually most of what’s happening in our brain, we are not conscious of. I think this gets you starting to think, ‘Wait a minute – is everything really under my control?’”
He does a magic trick of sorts with the episode’s host, so she questions her control over her choices. Wong is then shown sending a magnetic field – known as transcranial magnetic stimulation – to an area of Dominik’s brain that controls his finger movement.
Maoz researches the intersection of volition, decision-making and moral choice. In July 2022, he and others at the Brain Institute were awarded a grant of about $230,000 to study whether consciousness is necessary to initiate action.