Priming Effects and Free Will

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (5):725-734 (2012)
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Abstract I argue that the empirical literature on priming effects does not warrant nor suggest the conclusion, drawn by prominent psychologists such as J. A. Bargh, that we have no free will or less free will than we might think. I focus on a particular experiment by Bargh ? the ?elderly? stereotype case in which subjects that have been primed with words that remind them of the stereotype of the elderly walk on average slower out of the experiment?s room than control subjects ? and I show that we cannot say that subjects cannot help walking slower or that they are not free in doing do. I then illustrate how these cases can be reconciled and normalized within a Davidsonian theory of action to show that, in walking slower, subjects are acting intentionally. My argument applies across various experiments, including those of goal priming. In the final section I argue that the only cases in which priming effects are efficacious are so-called Buridan cases

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What do we prime? On distinguishing between semantic priming, procedural priming, and goal priming.Jens Forster, Nira Liberman & Ronald S. Friedman - 2009 - In Ezequiel Morsella, John A. Bargh & Peter M. Gollwitzer (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Human Action. Oxford University Press. pp. 173--193.


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Ezio Di Nucci
University of Copenhagen