What does free will mean to laypersons? The present investigation sought to address this question by identifying how laypersons distinguish between free and unfree actions. We elicited autobiographical narratives in which participants described either free or unfree actions, and the narratives were subsequently subjected to impartial analysis. Results indicate that free actions were associated with reaching goals, high levels of conscious thought and deliberation, positive outcomes, and moral behavior (among other things). These findings suggest that lay conceptions of free will (...) fit well with the view that free will is a form of action control. (shrink)
Some actions are freer than others, and the difference is palpably important in terms of inner process, subjective perception, and social consequences. Psychology can study the difference between freer and less free actions without making dubious metaphysical commitments. Human evolution seems to have created a relatively new, more complex form of action control that corresponds to popular notions of free will. It is marked by self-control and rational choice, both of which are highly adaptive, especially for functioning within culture. The (...) processes that create these forms of free will may be biologically costly and therefore are only used occasionally, so that people are likely to remain only incompletely self-disciplined, virtuous, and rational. (shrink)
For years, experimental philosophers have attempted to discern whether laypeople find free will compatible with a scientifically deterministic understanding of the universe, yet no consensus has emerged. The present work provides one potential explanation for these discrepant findings: People are strongly motivated to preserve free will and moral responsibility, and thus do not have stable, logically rigorous notions of free will. Seven studies support this hypothesis by demonstrating that a variety of logically irrelevant (but motivationally relevant) features influence compatibilist judgments. (...) In Study 1, participants who were asked to consider the possibility that our universe is deterministic were more compatibilist than those not asked to consider this possibility, suggesting that determinism poses a threat to moral responsibility, which increases compatibilist responding (thus reducing the threat). In Study 2, participants who considered concrete instances of moral behavior found compatibilist free will more sufficient for moral responsibility than participants who were asked about moral responsibility more generally. In Study 3a, the order in which participants read free will and determinism descriptions influenced their compatibilist judgments—and only when the descriptions had moral significance: Participants were more likely to report that determinism was compatible with free will than that free will was compatible with determinism. In Study 3b, participants who read the free will description first (the more compatibilist group) were particularly likely to confess that their beliefs in free will and moral responsibility and their disbelief in determinism influenced their conclusion. In Study 4, participants reduced their compatibilist beliefs after reading a passage that argued that moral responsibility could be preserved even in the absence of free will. Participants also reported that immaterial souls were compatible with scientific determinism, most strongly among immaterial soul believers (Study 5), and evaluated information about the capacities of primates in a biased manner favoring the existence of human free will (Study 6). These results suggest that people do not have one intuition about whether free will is compatible with determinism. Instead, people report that free will is compatible with determinism when desiring to uphold moral responsibility. Recommendations for future work are discussed. (shrink)
Four experiments supported the hypothesis that ordinary people understand free will as meaning unconstrained choice, not having a soul. People consistently rated free will as being high unless reduced by internal constraints (i.e., things that impaired people’s mental abilities to make choices) or external constraints (i.e., situations that hampered people’s abilities to choose and act as they desired). Scientific paradigms that have been argued to disprove free will were seen as reducing, but usually not eliminating free will, and the reductions (...) were because of constrained conscious choice. We replicated findings that a minority of people think lacking a soul reduces free will. These reductions in perceived free will were fully explained by reductions in people’s perceived abilities to make conscious decisions. Thus, some people do think you need a soul to have free will—but it is because they think you need a soul to make conscious decisions. (shrink)
Do philosophic views affect job performance? The authors found that possessing a belief in free will predicted better career attitudes and actual job performance. The effect of free will beliefs on job performance indicators were over and above well-established predictors such as conscientiousness, locus of control, and Protestant work ethic. In Study 1, stronger belief in free will corresponded to more positive attitudes about expected career success. In Study 2, job performance was evaluated objectively and independently by a supervisor. Results (...) indicated that employees who espoused free will beliefs were given better work performance evaluations than those who disbelieve in free will, presumably because belief in free will facilitates exerting control over one’s actions. (shrink)
Free will can be understood as a novel form of action control that evolved to meet the escalating demands of human social life, including moral action and pursuit of enlightened self-interest in a cultural context. That understanding is conducive to scientific research, which is reviewed here in support of four hypotheses. First, laypersons tend to believe in free will. Second, that belief has behavioral consequences, including increases in socially and culturally desirable acts. Third, laypersons can reliably distinguish free actions from (...) less free ones. Fourth, actions judged as free emerge from a distinctive set of inner processes, all of which share a common psychological and physiological signature. These inner processes include self-control, rational choice, planning, and initiative. (shrink)
Do people have free will, or this universal belief an illusion? If free will is more than an illusion, what kind of free will do people have? How can free will influence behavior? Can free will be studied, verified, and understood scientifically? How and why might a sense of free will have evolved? These are a few of the questions this book attempts to answer. People generally act as though they believe in their own free will: they don't feel like (...) automatons, and they don't treat one another as they might treat robots. While acknowledging many constraints and influences on behavior, people nonetheless act as if they (and their neighbors) are largely in control of many if not most of the decisions they make. Belief in free will also underpins the sense that people are responsible for their actions. Psychological explanations of behavior rarely mention free will as a factor, however. Can psychological science find room for free will? How do leading psychologists conceptualize free will, and what role do they believe free will plays in shaping behavior? In recent years a number of psychologists have tried to solve one or more of the puzzles surrounding free will. This book looks both at recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to free will and at ways leading psychologists from all branches of psychology deal with the philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will and the importance of consciousness in free will. It also includes commentaries by leading philosophers on what psychologists can contribute to long-running philosophical struggles with this most distinctly human belief. These essays should be of interest not only to social scientists, but to intelligent and thoughtful readers everywhere. (shrink)
Four studies measured or manipulated beliefs in free will to illuminate how such beliefs are linked to other aspects of personality. Study 1 showed that stronger belief in free will was correlated with more gratitude, greater life satisfaction, lower levels of perceived life stress, a greater sense of self-efficacy, greater perceived meaning in life, higher commitment in relationships, and more willingness to forgive relationship partners. Study 2 showed that the belief in free will was a stronger predictor of life satisfaction, (...) meaning in life, gratitude, and self-efficacy than either locus of control or implicit person theory. Study 3 showed that experimentally manipulating disbelief in free will caused a reduction in the perceived meaningfulness of life. Study 4 found that inducing a stronger belief in free will caused people to set more meaningful goals for themselves. The possible concern that believers in free will simply claim all manner of positive traits was contradicted by predicted null finding.. (shrink)
Recent findings support the idea that the belief in free will serves as the basis for moral responsibility, thus promoting the punishment of immoral agents. We theorized that free will extends beyond morality to serve as the basis for accountability and the capacity for change more broadly, not only for others but also for the self. Five experiments showed that people attributed higher freedom of will to negative than to positive valence, regardless of morality or intent, for both self and (...) others. In recalling everyday life situations and in classical decision making paradigms, negative actions, negatives outcomes, and negative framing were attributed higher free will than positive ones. Free will attributions were mainly driven by action or outcome valence, but not intent. These findings show consistent support for the idea that free will underlies laypersons’ sense-making for accountability and change under negative circumstances. (shrink)
Previous research indicates that the depletion of self-regulatory resources can promote unethical behavior that benefits the self. Extending this literature, we focus on norm-transgressing behavior that is intended to primarily benefit others. In particular, we predicted a differing effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on dishonesty that benefits one’s group, depending on the degree of identification with the group. Following a dual process approach, we argue that if identification with the group is strong, then people may have an automatic inclination to (...) benefit their group even perhaps by lying. In contrast, if identification with the group is weak, then the default, uncontrolled impulse may be to tell the truth. Accordingly, identification with the social group should interact with self-regulatory resource depletion in predicting group-benefiting dishonesty. Focusing on pro-organizational dishonesty, we tested our hypotheses in one field study with 1269 employees and in one experimental study with 71 university students. As predicted, the results revealed a highly significant interaction of organizational identification and self-control strength: Depletion of self-regulatory resources increased the level of pro-organizational dishonesty among those who identify highly with the organization, but decreased the level of such behavior among those who identify less. (shrink)
Humans, unlike other animals, are equipped with a powerful brain that permits conscious awareness and reflection. A growing trend in psychological science has questioned the benefits of consciousness, however. Testing a hypothesis advanced by [Lieberman, M. D., Gaunt, R., Gilbert, D. T., & Trope, Y. . Reflection and reflexion: A social cognitive neuroscience approach to attributional inference. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 34, 199–249], four studies suggested that the conscious, reflective processing system is vital for logical reasoning. Substantial decrements in (...) logical reasoning were found when a cognitive load manipulation preoccupied conscious processing, while hampering the nonconscious system with consciously suppressed thoughts failed to impair reasoning . Nonconscious activation of the idea of logical reasoning increased the activation of logic-relevant concepts, but failed to improve logical reasoning performance unless the logical conclusions were largely intuitive and thus not reliant on logical reasoning . Meanwhile, stimulating the conscious goal of reasoning well led to improvements in reasoning performance . These findings offer evidence that logical reasoning is aided by the conscious, reflective processing system. (shrink)
Emotions play a prominent role in social life, yet the direct impact of emotions on behavior and judgment remains a point of disagreement. The current investigation used meta-analysis to test two theoretical perspectives. The emotion-as-direct-causation perspective asserts that current emotions guide behavior and judgment, whereas the emotion-as-feedback perspective asserts that anticipated emotions guide behavior and judgment. Although the emotion-as-direct-causation perspective was frequently tested, only 22% of tests were significant. Although the emotion-as-feedback perspective was rarely tested, 87% of tests were significant. (...) Our findings suggest that empirical evidence is weak for the default assumption that emotion is the proximal cause of behavior and judgment. Our preliminary findings also suggest that anticipated emotion reliably impacts social behavior and judgment. (shrink)
Social psychology is a flourishing discipline. It explores the most essential questions of the human psyche, and it does so with clever, ingenuitive research methods. This edited volume is a textbook for advanced social psychology courses. Its primary target audience is first-year graduate students in social psychlogy, although it is also appropriate for upper-level undergraduate courses in social psychology and for doctoral students in disciplines connecting to social psychology. The authors of the chapters are world-renowned leaders on their topic, and (...) they have written these chapters to be engaging and accessible to students who are just learning the discipline. After reading this book, you will be able to understand almost any journal article or conference presentation in any field of social psychology. You will be able to converse competently with most social psychologists in their primary research domain, a use skill that is relevant not only in daily life but also when interviewing for a faculty position. And, most importantly, you will be equipped with the background knowledge to forge ahead more confidently with your own research. (shrink)
Praise is a common feature of interpersonal interaction. It is used to encourage, socialize, ingratiate, seduce, reward, and influence other people. These assorted usages reflect a widespread belief in the efficacy of praise for altering the behaviour and affective state of the recipient. Despite this assumed power of praise, and despite its salience and frequency in human social interaction, research interest in praise has been sporadic and intermittent, and not united within an all-embracing theoretical model.In this article we will present (...) an analysis of the effects of praise. We will begin by considering how to define praise. Next, we will examine the view of praise as social reinforcement, a conception which roots praise firmly within an empiricist framework; this appears to have been the predominant theoretical view guiding previous research on praise. We will conclude, however, that this view is conceptually inadequate to account for the empirical evidence. Because of that conclusion, our next step will be to provide a novel examination of the likely processes and consequences involved in praise. The remainder of the article will then be devoted to examining, where it is available, empirical evidence relevant to our analysis. (shrink)
We treat meaning as nonphysical connection and potential organization. Meaning is a resource that can be used by animals to improve survival and reproduction. The evolution of brains to exploit meaning occurred in two heuristic steps. First, solitary brains developed mental representations of patterns for learning and guiding adaptive action. Second, humankind greatly expanded the usefulness of meaning by using it collectively, such as by deliberately communicating information, creating a body of shared beliefs and understandings, and using meaning to organize (...) social life. The intentional application of meaning to life, as in the quest for a meaningful life, is a later development linked to ways of organizing behavior to maximize future outcomes and relate the individual to societal systems. (shrink)
Self-protection can have psychological and behavioral implications. We contrast them with the implications of a self-enhancement strategy. Both self-enhancement and self-protection have costs and benefits as survival strategies, and we identify some of the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tradeoffs associated with the differential preferences for each strategy. New analyses on a large existing data set confirm the target article's hypothesis that women are more attuned than men to potential negative consequences of innovations.
Any evolved disposition for fairness and cooperation would not replace but merely compete with selfish and other antisocial impulses. Therefore, we propose that human cooperation and fairness depend on self-regulation. Evidence shows reductions in fairness and other prosocial tendencies when self-regulation fails.
Van de Vliert's findings fit nicely with our recent arguments implying that (1) differentiated selfhood is partly motivated by requirements of cultural groups, and (2) free will mainly exists within culture. Some cultural groups promote individual freedom, whereas others constrict it so as to maintain elites' power and privilege. Thus, freedom is, to a great extent, a creation of culture.
Further Thoughts on Counterfactuals, Compatibilism, Conceptual Mismatches, and Choices: Response to Commentaries Content Type Journal Article Pages 31-34 DOI 10.1007/s12152-010-9067-3 Authors Roy F. Baumeister, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL USA A. William Crescioni, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL USA Jessica L. Alquist, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL USA Journal Neuroethics Online ISSN 1874-5504 Print ISSN 1874-5490 Journal Volume Volume 4 Journal Issue Volume 4, Number 1.
Our recent work suggests that (1) the purpose of human conscious thought is participation in social and cultural groups, and (2) logical reasoning depends on conscious thought. These mesh well with the argument theory of reasoning. In broader context, the distinctively human traits are adaptations for culture and inner processes serve interpersonal functions.