Are we the robots? This question surfaces often in current psychological re- search, as various kinds of robot parts-automatic actions, mental mechanisms, even neural circuits-keep appearing in our explanations of human behavior. Automatic processes seem responsible for a wide range of the things we do, a fact that may leave us feeling, if not fully robotic, at least a bit nonhuman. The complement of the automatic process in contemporary psychology, of course, is the controlled process (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Bargh, (...) 1984; Posner & Snyder, 1975; Shiffrin & Schnieder, 1977), and it is in theories of controlled processes that vestiges of our humanity reappear. Controlled processes are viewed as conscious, effortful, and intentional. and as drawing on more sources of information than automatic processes. With this power of conscious will, controlled processes seem to bring the civilized quality back to psychological explanation that automatic processes leave out. Yet by reintroducing this touch of humanity, the notion of a controlled process also brings us within glimpsing range of a fatal theoretical error-the idea that there is a controller. (shrink)
We often consciously will our own actions. This experience is so profound that it tempts us to believe that our actions are caused by consciousness. It could also be a trick, however – the mind’s way of estimating its own apparent authorship by drawing causal inferences about relationships between thoughts and actions. Cognitive, social, and neuropsychological studies of apparent mental causation suggest that experiences of conscious will frequently depart from actual causal processes and so might not reﬂect direct perceptions of (...) conscious thought causing action. (shrink)
Believing in God requires not only a leap of faith but also an extension of people’s normal capacity to perceive the minds of others. Usually, people perceive minds of all kinds by trying to understand their conscious experience (what it is like to be them) and their agency (what they can do). Although humans are perceived to have both agency and experience, humans appear to see God as possessing agency, but not experience. God’s unique mind is due, the authors suggest, (...) to the uniquely moral role He occupies. In this article, the authors propose that God is seen as the ultimate moral agent, the entity people blame and praise when they receive anomalous harm and help. Support for this proposition comes from research on mind perception, morality, and moral typecasting. Interestingly, although people perceive God as the author of salvation, suffering seems to evoke even more attributions to the divine. (shrink)
The experience of conscious will is the feeling that we are doing things. This feeling occurs for many things we do, conveying to us again and again the sense that we consciously cause our actions. But the feeling may not be a true reading of what is happening in our minds, brains, and bodies as our actions are produced. The feeling of conscious will can be fooled. This happens in clinical disorders such as alien hand syndrome, dissociative identity disorder, and (...) schizophrenic auditory hallucinations. And in people without disorders, phenomena such as hypnosis, automatic writing, Ouija board spelling, water dowsing, facilitated communication, speaking in tongues, spirit possession, and trance channeling also illustrate anomalies of will – cases when actions occur without will or will occurs without action. This book brings these cases together with research evidence from laboratories in psychology to explore a theory of apparent mental causation. According to this theory, when a thought appears in consciousness just prior to an action, is consistent with the action, and appears exclusive of salient alternative causes of the action, we experience conscious will and ascribe authorship to ourselves for the action. Experiences of conscious will thus arise from processes whereby the mind interprets itself – not from processes whereby mind creates action. Conscious will, in this view, is an indication that we think we have caused an action, not a revelation of the causal sequence by which the action was produced. Key Words: apparent mental causation; automatism; conscious will; determinism; free will; perceived control. (shrink)
The commentators' responses to The Illusion of Conscious Will reveal a healthy range of opinions – pro, con, and occasionally stray. Common concerns and issues are summarized here in terms of 11 “frequently asked questions,” which often center on the theme of how the experience of conscious will supports the creation of the self as author of action.
Participants were asked to carry out a series of simple tasks while following mental control instructions. In advance of each task, they either suppressed thoughts of their intention to perform the task, concentrated on such thoughts, or monitored their thoughts without trying to change them. Suppression resulted in reduced reports of intentionality as compared to monitoring, and as compared to concentration. There was a weak trend for suppression to enhance reported intentionality for a repetition of the action carried out after (...) suppression instructions had been discontinued. (shrink)
Spiritual values in the workplace, increasingly discussed and applied in the business ethics literature, can be viewed from an individual, organizational, or interactive perspective. The following study examined previously unexplored workplace spirituality outcomes. Using data collected from five samples consisting of full-time workers taking graduate coursework, results indicated that perceptions of organizational-level spirituality (“organizational spirituality”) appear to matter most to attitudinal and attachment-related outcomes. Specifically, organizational spirituality was found to be positively related to job involvement, organizational identification, and work rewards (...) satisfaction, and negatively related to organizational frustration. Personal spirituality was positively related to intrinsic, extrinsic, and total work rewards satisfaction. The interaction of personal spirituality and organizational spirituality was found related to total work rewards satisfaction. Future workplace spirituality research directions are discussed. (shrink)
An important component of souls is the capacity for free will, as the origin of agency within an individual. Belief in souls arises in part from the experience of conscious will, a compelling feeling of personal causation that accompanies almost every action we take, and suggests that an immaterial self is in charge of the physical body.
These studies examined whether having thoughts related to an event before it occurs leads people to infer that they caused the event— even when such causation might otherwise seem magical. In Study 1, people perceived that they had harmed another person via a voodoo hex. These perceptions were more likely among those who had first been induced to harbor evil thoughts about their victim. In Study 2, spectators of a peer’s basketball-shooting performance were more likely to perceive that they had (...) influenced his success if they had first generated positive visualizations consistent with that success. Observers privy to those spectators’ visualizations made similar attributions about the spectators’ influence. Finally, addi- tional studies suggested that these results occur even when the thought-about outcome is viewed as unwanted by the thinker and even in field settings where the relevant outcome is occurring as part of a live athletic competition. (shrink)
Although torture can establish guilt through confession, how are judgments of guilt made when tortured suspects do not confess? We suggest that perceived guilt is based inappropriately upon how much pain suspects appear to suffer during torture. Two psychological theories provide competing predictions about the link between pain and perceived blame: cognitive dissonance, which links pain to blame, and moral typecasting, which links pain to innocence. We hypothesized that dissonance might characterize the relationship between torture and blame for those close (...) to the torture, while moral typecasting might characterize this relationship for those more distant from it. Accordingly, this experiment placed participants into one of two different roles in which people may be exposed to torture. Participants in the proximal role of prison staffer saw suffering torture victims as relatively more guilty, while participants in the relatively distant role of a radio listener saw suffering victims as more innocent. (shrink)
Scientific psychology and neuroscience are taking increasingly precise and comprehensive pictures of the human mind, both in its physi- cal architecture and its functional processes. Meanwhile, each human mind has an abbreviated view of itself, a self-portrait that captures how it thinks it operates, and that therefore has been remarkably influential. The mind’s self-portrait has as a central feature the idea that thoughts cause actions, and that the self is thus an origin of the body’s actions. This self- portrait is (...) reached through a process of inference of apparent mental cau- sation, and it gives rise to the experience that we are consciously willing what we do. Evidence from several sources suggests that this self-portrait may often be a humble and misleading caricature of the mind’s opera- tion—but one that underlies the feeling of authorship and the acceptance of responsibility for action. (shrink)
Background:The belief that we can control our thoughts is not inevitably adaptive, particularly when it fuels mental control activities that have ironic unintended consequences. The conviction that the mind can and should be controlled can prompt people to suppress unwanted thoughts, and so can set the stage for the intrusive return of those very thoughts. An important question is whether or not these beliefs about the control of thoughts can be reduced experimentally. One possibility is that behavioral experiments aimed at (...) revealing the ironic return of suppressed thoughts might create a lesson that could reduce unrealistic beliefs about the control of thoughts. Aims: The present research assessed the influence of the thought suppression demonstration on beliefs about the control of thoughts in a non-clinical sample, and among individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Method: In Study 1, we assessed the effect of the thought suppression demonstration on beliefs about the control of thoughts among low and high obsessive individuals in the non-clinical population (N= 62). In Study 2, we conducted a similar study with individuals with OCD (N= 29). Results: Results suggest that high obsessive individuals in the non-clinical population are able to learn the futility of suppression through.. (shrink)
The classical view of computing positions computation as a closed-box transformation of inputs (rational numbers or finite strings) to outputs. According to the interactive view of computing, computation is an ongoing interactive process rather than a function-based transformation of an input to an output. Specifically, communication with the outside world happens during the computation, not before or after it. This approach radically changes our understanding of what is computation and how it is modeled. The acceptance of interaction as a new (...) paradigm is hindered by the Strong Church–Turing Thesis (SCT), the widespread belief that Turing Machines (TMs) capture all computation, so models of computation more expressive than TMs are impossible. In this paper, we show that SCT reinterprets the original Church–Turing Thesis (CTT) in a way that Turing never intended; its commonly assumed equivalence to the original is a myth. We identify and analyze the historical reasons for the widespread belief in SCT. Only by accepting that it is false can we begin to adopt interaction as an alternative paradigm of computation. We present Persistent Turing Machines (PTMs), that extend TMs to capture sequential interaction. PTMs allow us to formulate the Sequential Interaction Thesis, going beyond the expressiveness of TMs and of the CTT. The paradigm shift to interaction provides an alternative understanding of the nature of computing that better reflects the services provided by today’s computing technology. (shrink)
In “Descriptions as Predicates” (Fara 2001) I argued that definite and indefinite descriptions should be given a uniform semantic treatment as predicates rather than as quantifier phrases. The aim of the current paper is to clarify and elaborate one of the arguments for the descriptions-aspredicates view, one that concerns the interaction of descriptions with adverbs of quantification.
In slapstick comedy, the worst thing that could happen usually does: The person with a sore toe manages to stub it, sometimes twice. Such errors also arise in daily life, and research traces the tendency to do precisely the worst thing to ironic processes of mental control. These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations, but they also increase the likelihood of such errors when (...) we attempt to exert control under mental load (stress, time pressure, or distraction). Ironic errors in attention and memory occur with identifiable brain activity and prompt recurrent unwanted thoughts; attraction to forbidden desires; expression of objectionable social prejudices; production of movement errors; and rebounds of negative experiences such as anxiety, pain, and depression. Such ironies can be overcome when effective control strategies are deployed and mental load is minimized. (shrink)
The authors found that the feeling of authorship for mental actions such as solving problems is enhanced by effort cues experienced during mental activity; misattribution of effort cues resulted in inadvertent plagiarism. Pairs of participants took turns solving anagrams as they exerted effort on an unrelated task. People inadvertently plagiarized their partners’ answers more often when they experienced high incidental effort while working on the problem and reduced effort as the solution appeared. This result was found for efforts produced when (...) participants squeezed a handgrip during the task (Experiment 1) or when the anagram was displayed in a font that was difficult to read (Experiments 2, 3a, and 3b). Plagiarism declined, however, when participants attended to the source of the effort cues (Experiments 3a and 3b). These results suggest that effort misattribution can influence authorship processing for mental activities. (shrink)
The experience of authorship arises when we feel that observed effects (e.g., the onset of a light) are caused by our own actions (e.g., pushing a switch). This study tested whether dysphoric persons’ authorship ascription can be modulated implicitly in a situation in which the exclusivity of the cause of effects is ambiguous. In line with the idea that depressed individuals’ self-schemata include general views of uncontrollability, in a subliminal priming task we observed that dysphoric (compared with nondysphoric) participants experienced (...) lower authorship of action effects when the self-concept was primed. Priming the potential effects of an action just prior to their occurrence, however, increased experiences of authorship in all participants and eliminated the effect of self-concept priming on dysphoric participants’ authorship experiences. These findings suggest that the human mental system seizes on a match between primed and actual action effect to establish a sense of authorship, even in a state of depression when persons have weak self-views of causing behavioral outcomes. r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Consciously attempting not to think about something is a mental control strategy known as thought suppression. This strategy can be successful under certain conditions, but it often promotes an increase in the accessibility of the thought to consciousness, and along with this, a number of ironic processes and unwanted effects.
Although the suppression of thoughts may seem to be an effective solution when thoughts are unwanted, this strategy can lead to a recurrence of the very thought that one is attempting to suppress. This ironic effect is the most obvious unwanted outcome of suppression and has been investigated empirically for more than two decades. However, even when suppression does not lead to an ironic rebound of the unwanted thought, it puts an insidious cognitive load on the individual attempting to suppress. (...) Moreover, whether or not suppression leads to an exacerbation of the unwanted thought, it is rarely successful, and hence adds to the individual’s distress. In this article we describe the consequences of suppression and consider how it might complicate a range of emotional disorders. Taken together, studies on thought suppression in psychopathology present a more nuanced picture now than was emerging in the early years of its investigation. Some evidence is consistent with the idea that the counterproductive effects of suppression are causally implicated in disorders, but a more parsimonious conclusion is that thought suppression often acts as a complication of disorders. In certain disorders, suppression complicates the disorder by leading to an ironic rebound of the unwanted thoughts. In all disorders, the cost of undertaking suppression is a persistent cognitive load, which undermines the ability to suppress and sets off a cycle of failed expectations and distress. (shrink)
Key Words mental control, intrusive thought, rebound effect, ironic processes Abstract Although thought suppression is a popular form of mental control, research has indicated that it can be counterproductive, helping assure the very state of mind one had hoped to avoid. This chapter reviews the research on suppression, which spans a wide range of domains, including emotions, memory, interpersonal processes, psychophysiological reactions, and psychopathology. The chapter considers the relevant methodological and theoretical issues and suggests directions for future research.
When someone steps on your toe on purpose, it seems to hurt more than when the person does the same thing unintentionally. The physical parameters of the harm may not differ—your toe is ﬂattened in both cases—but the psychological experience of pain is changed nonetheless. Intentional harms are premeditated by another person and have the speciﬁc purpose of causing pain. In a sense, intended harms are events initiated by one mind to communicate meaning (malice) to another, and this could shape (...) the recipient’s experience. This study examined whether self-reported pain is indeed higher when the events producing the pain are understood as intentionally (as opposed to unintentionally) caused by another person. Although pain was traditionally conceived to be solely physical in nature (Aydede, 2005), its experience varies substantially with psychological context. The placebo analgesia effect, for example, is the reduction of pain without a change in physical stimulation when context, expectations, or sugar pills challenge the interpretation of a sensation as painful (e.g., Fields, 2008). The nocebo effect, in turn, is the experience of pain without any physical stimulation—as when participants report headaches when told that a (nonexistent) electric current is passing through their heads (Schweiger & Parducci, 1981). These variations in pain experience seem to depend on the meaning of the stimulus: A sugar pill is meant to decrease pain, whereas electric current is meant to increase pain. In an interpersonal context, the meaning of an action is derived from the would complete. perceiver’s perceptions of the actor’s intention (Clark, 1996). (shrink)
The authors examined how a perceiver’s identification of a target person’s actions covaries with attributions of mind to the target. The authors found in Study 1 that the attribution of intentionality and cognition to a target was associated with identifying the target’s action in terms of high-level effects rather than low-level details. In Study 2, both action identification and mind attribution were greater for a liked target, and in Study 3, they were reduced for a target suffering misfortune. In Study (...) 4, it was again found that action identification and mind attribution were greater for a liked target, but like that for the self or a liked other, positive actions were identified at higher levels than negative actions, with the reverse being true for disliked others. In Study 5, the authors found that instructing participants to adopt the target’s perspective did not affect mind attribution but did lead to higher level identifications of the.. (shrink)
Conscious will is an experience like the sensation of the color red, the percepfion of a friend's voice, or the enjoyment of a fine spring day. David Hume (1739/1888) appreciated the will in just this way, defining it as "nothing but the internal..
An unwanted thought appears to be cued easily by reminders in the environment but often the thought itself seems to cue nothing more than the desire to eliminate it from consciousness. This unusual asymmetry in the way unwanted thoughts are linked to other thoughts was the focus of the present research. Participants who were asked to suppress a thought or to concentrate on it completed a task assessing the inﬂuence of priming on reaction time (RT) for word/ non-word judgments. Results (...) revealed that suppression under cognitive load produced asymmetric priming: Priming with the associate of a suppressed word speeded RT for the suppressed word, but priming with a suppressed word did not speed RT for associated words. These ﬁndings suggest that thought suppression induces an unusual form of cognitive accessibility in which movement of activation toward the suppressed thought from associates is facilitated but movement of activation away from the suppressed thought to associates is undermined. Ó 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (shrink)
��People spent 5 min before sleep at home writing their stream of thought as they suppressed thoughts of a target person, thought of the person, or wrote freely after mentioning the person. These presleep references generally prompted people to report increased dreaming about the person. However, suppression instructions were particularly likely to have this in- ﬂuence, increasing dreaming about the person as measured both by participants’ self-ratings of their dreams and by raters’ coding of mentions of the person in written (...) dream reports. This effect was observed regardless of emotional attraction to the person. (shrink)
Six experiments found that manipulations that increase thought speed also yield positive affect. These experiments varied in both the methods used for accelerating thought (i.e., instructions to brainstorm freely, exposure to multiple ideas, encouragement to plagiarize others’ ideas, performance of easy cognitive tasks, narration of a silent video in fast-forward, and experimentally controlled reading speed) and the contents of the thoughts that were induced (from thoughts about money-making schemes to thoughts of five-letter words). The results suggested that effects of thought (...) speed on mood are partially rooted in the subjective experience of thought speed. The results also suggested that these effects can be attributed to the joy-enhancing effects of fast thinking (rather than only to the joy-killing effects of slow thinking). This work is inspired by observations of a link between “racing thoughts” and euphoria in cases of clinical mania, and potential implications of that observed link are discussed. (shrink)
The accessibility of suppressed thoughts was compared with the accessibility of thoughts on which Ss were consciously trying to concentrate. In Experiment I, Ss made associations to word prompts as they tried to suppress thinking about a target word (e.g., house) or tried to concentrate on that word. Under the cognitive load imposed by time pressure, they gave the target word in response to target-related prompts (e.g., home) more often during suppression than during concentration. In Experiment 2, reaction times for (...) naming colors of words were found to be greater under conditions of cognitive load when Ss were asked to suppress thinking of the word than under conditions of no cognitive load or when Ss were asked to concentrate on the word. The results support the idea that an automatic search for the suppression target increases the accessibility of the target during.. (shrink)
So, here you are, reading about conscious will. How could this have happened? One way to explain it would be to examine the causes of your behavior. A team of scientists could study your reported thoughts, emotions, and motives, your genetics and your history of learning, experience, and development, your social situation and culture, your memories and reaction times, your physiology and neuroanatomy, and lots of other things as well. If they somehow had access to all the information they could (...) ever want, the assumption of psychology is that they could uncover the mechanisms that give rise to all your behavior, and so could certainly explain why you are reading these words at this moment. However, another way to explain the fact of your reading these lines is just to say that you decided to begin reading. You consciously willed what you are doing. The ideas of conscious will and psychological mechanism have an oil and water relationship, having never been properly reconciled. One way to put them together is to say that the mechanistic approach is the explanation preferred for scientific purposes, but that the person’s experience of conscious will is utterly convincing and important to the person – and so must be understood scientifically as well. The mechanisms underlying the experience of will are themselves a fundamental topic of scientific study. (shrink)
Unpriming is a decrease in the influence of primed knowledge following a behavior expressing that knowledge. The authors investigated strategies for unpriming the knowledge of an answer that is activated when people are asked to consider a simple question. Experiment 1 found that prior correct answering eliminated the bias people normally show toward correct responding when asked to answer yes–no questions randomly. Experiment 2 revealed that prior answering intended to be random did not unprime knowledge on subsequent attempts to answer (...) randomly. Experiment 3 found that exposure to the correct answer did not influence the knowledge bias but that exposure to the incorrect answer increased bias. Experiment 4 revealed that merely expressing the answer for oneself was sufficient to unprime knowledge. Experiment 5 found that each item of activated knowledge needs to be unprimed specifically, in that correctly answering 1 question does not reduce the knowledge bias in randomly answering another. (shrink)
Participants watched themselves in a mirror while another person behind them, hidden from view, extended hands forward on each side where participants’ hands would normally appear. The hands performed a series of movements. When participants could hear instructions previewing each movement, they reported an enhanced feeling of controlling the hands. Hearing instructions for the movements also enhanced skin conductance responses when a rubber band was snapped on the other’s wrist after the movements. Such vicarious agency was not felt when the (...) instructions followed the movements, and participants’ own covert movement mimicry was not essential to the influence of previews on reported control. (shrink)
It has been proposed that inferring personal authorship for an event gives rise to intentional binding, a perceptual illusion in which one’s action and inferred effect seem closer in time than they otherwise would (Haggard, Clark, & Kalogeras, 2002). Using a novel, naturalistic paradigm, we conducted two experiments to test this hypothesis and examine the relationship between binding and self-reported authorship. In both experiments, an important authorship indicator – consistency between one’s action and a subsequent event – was manipulated, and (...) its effects on binding and self-reported authorship were measured. Results showed that action-event consistency enhanced both binding and self-reported authorship, supporting the hypothesis that binding arises from an inference of authorship. At the same time, evidence for a dissociation emerged, with consistency having a more robust effect on self-reports than on binding. Taken together, these results suggest that binding and self-reports reveal different aspects of the sense of authorship. Ó 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (shrink)
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These studies examined whether having thoughts related to an event before it occurs leads people to infer that they caused the event— even when such causation might otherwise seem magical. In Study 1, people perceived that they had harmed another person via a voodoo hex. These perceptions were more likely among those who had first been induced to harbor evil thoughts about their victim. In Study 2, spectators of a peer’s basketball-shooting performance were more likely to perceive that they had (...) influenced his success if they had first generated positive visualizations consistent with that success. Observers privy to those spectators’ visualizations made similar attributions about the spectators’ influence. Finally, additional studies suggested that these results occur even when the thought-about outcome is viewed as unwanted by the thinker and even in field settings where the relevant outcome is occurring as part of a live athletic competition. (shrink)