Four studies tested the hypothesis that a weaker belief in free will would be related to feeling less gratitude. In Studies 1a and 1b, a trait measure of free will belief was positively correlated with a measure of dispositional gratitude. In Study 2, participants whose free will belief was weakened (vs. unchanged or bolstered) reported feeling less grateful for events in their past. Study 3 used a laboratory induction of gratitude. Participants with an experimentally reduced (vs. increased) belief in free (...) will reported feeling less grateful for the favor. In Study 4, a reduced (vs. increased) belief in free will led to less gratitude in a hypothetical favor scenario. This effect was serially mediated by perceiving the benefactor as having less free will and therefore as being less sincerely motivated. These findings suggest that belief in free will is an important part of being able to feel gratitude. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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. 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 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, and evaluated information about the capacities of primates in a biased manner favoring the existence of human free will. 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)
Expert opinions have yielded a wide and controversial assortment of conceptions of free will, but laypersons seem to associate free will more simply with making choices. We found that the more strongly people believed in free will, the more they liked making choices, the higher they rated their ability to make decisions (Study 1), the less difficult they perceived making decisions, and the more satisfied they were with their decisions (Study 2). High free will belief was also associated with more (...) spontaneous associating of choice with freedom, and with the perception of actions as choices. Recalling choices (Study 3) and making choices (Study 4) led to a stronger endorsement of the belief in free will, with an additional effect for the level of choice involved. These findings suggest that the everyday social reality of beliefs about free will is a matter of how people think and feel about choice. (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)
This chapter summarizes research on free will. Progress has been made by discarding outmoded philosophical notions in favor of exploring how ordinary people understand and use the notion of free will. The concept of responsible autonomy captures many aspects of layperson concepts of free will, including acting on one's own (i.e., not driven by external forces), choosing, using reasons and personal values, conscious reflection, and knowing and accepting consequences and moral implications. Free will can thus be understood as form of (...) volition (action control) that evolved to enable people to live in cultural societies. Much work has shown that belief in free will (as opposed to disbelief) is associated with actions that are conducive to functioning well in culture, including helpfulness, restraint of aggression, learning via counterfactual analysis, thinking for oneself, effective job performance, and appropriate gratitude. Belief in free will increases in response to misdeeds by others, thus emphasizing the link to personal responsibility. Research on volition indicates that self-regulation, intelligent reasoning, decision making, and initiative all deplete a (common) limited energy source, akin to the folk notion of willpower and linked to the body's glucose supplies. Free will is thus not an absolute or constant property of persons but a variable, fluctuating capability—one that is nonetheless highly adaptive for individuals and society. -/- The notion that people have free will has been invoked in multiple contexts. Legally and morally, it explains why people can be held responsible for their actions. Theologically, it was used to explain why a supposedly kind and omniscient god would send most of the people he created to hell (Walker, 1964). Yet, for such an important concept, there remains wide-ranging disagreement and confusion over its existence and its nature. For example, philosophers still debate whether humans truly have free will and, if so, under what conditions human volition deserves to be considered free (Kane, 2011). In psychology, most theorists believe that humans engage in self-control, rational choice, planning, initiative, and related acts of volition. The debate is not whether these things occur but merely whether these should be called free will. -/- This chapter will provide an overview of recent psychology experiments concerned with free will. There are three main and quite distinct sets of problems, each with associated lines of research. The first is concerned with how people understand the idea of free will. The second concerns the causes and consequences of believing in free will. The third focuses on the actual volitional processes that guide human action. (shrink)
Our species is misnamed. Though sapiens defines human beings as "wise" what humans do especially well is to prospect the future. We are homo prospectus. In this book, Martin E. P. Seligman, Peter Railton, Roy F. Baumeister, and Chandra Sripada argue it is anticipating and evaluating future possibilities for the guidance of thought and action that is the cornerstone of human success. Much of the history of psychology has been dominated by a framework in which people's behavior is driven by (...) past history and present circumstances. Homo Prospectus reassesses this idea, pushing focus to the future front and center and opening discussion of a new field of Psychology and Neuroscience.The authors delve into four modes in which prospection operates: the implicit mind, deliberate thought, mind-wandering, and collective imagination. They then explore prospection's role in some of life's most enduring questions: Why do people think about the future? Do we have free will? What is the nature of intuition, and how might it function in ethics? How does emotion function in human psychology? Is there a common causal process in different psychopathologies? Does our creativity change with age?In this remarkable convergence of research in philosophy, statistics, decision theory, psychology, and neuroscience, Homo Prospectus shows how human prospection fundamentally reshapes our understanding of key cognitive processes, thereby improving individual and social functioning. It aims to galvanize interest in this new science from scholars in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, as well as an educated public curious about what makes humanity what it is. (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)
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)
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)
This volume is aimed at readers who wish to move beyond debates about the existence of free will and the efficacy of consciousness and closer to appreciating how free will and consciousness might operate. It draws from philosophy and psychology, the two fields that have grappled most fundamentally with these issues. In this wide-ranging volume, the contributors explore such issues as how free will is connected to rational choice, planning, and self-control; roles for consciousness in decision making; the nature and (...) power of conscious deciding; connections among free will, consciousness, and quantum mechanics; why free will and consciousness might have evolved; how consciousness develops in individuals; the experience of free will; effects on behavior of the belief that free will is an illusion; and connections between free will and moral responsibility in lay thinking. Collectively, these state-of-the-art chapters by accomplished psychologists and philosophers provide a glimpse into the future of research on free will and consciousness. (shrink)
The side-effect effect is the seemingly irrational tendency for people to say harmful side effects were more intentional than helpful side effects of the same action. But the tendency may not be irrational. According to the Tradeoffs Justification Model, judgments of a person's intentions to cause harm depend on how that person decided to act, and on whether the reasons for acting justified causing the harmful consequences. Across three experiments (N = 660), unjustified harms were viewed as more intentional than (...) justified harms. If the person had a choice of what to do and knowingly caused harm for no good reason, people judged that the person must have actually desired and intended to cause the harm. However, if the person had a strong, compelling reason (e.g., to ransom his daughter from kidnappers) that the observer deemed to have justified causing the harm, then observers thought the harm was weakly intended at most. Taboo harms that violated sacred moral values were especially likely to be seen as intentional because most reasons do not adequately justify violating a sacred value. (shrink)
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.
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.
Thought uses meaning but not necessarily language. Meaning, in the form of a set of possible concepts and ideas, is a nonphysical reality that lay waiting for brains to become smart enough to represent these ideas. Thus, the brain evolved, whereas meaning was discovered, and language was invented – collectively – as a tool to help the brain use meaning.
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)
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.
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)
How can self-deception avoid intention and conscious recognition? Nine processes of self-deception seem to involve biased links between plausible ideas. These processes allow self-deceivers to regard individual conclusions as fair and reasonable. Bias is only detected by comparing broad patterns, which individual self-deceivers will not do.
Some people believe more than others in free will, and researchers have both measured and manipulated those beliefs. Disbelief in free will has been shown to cause dishonest, selfish, aggressive, and conforming behavior, and to reduce helpfulness, learning from one’s misdeeds, thinking for oneself, recycling, expectations for occupational success, and actual quality of performance on the job. Belief in free will has been shown to have only modest or negligible correlations with other variables, indicating that it is a distinct trait. (...) Belief in free will has correlated positively with life satisfaction and finding life meaningful, with self‐efficacy and self‐control, with low levels of stress, and (though not entirely consistently) with internal locus of control. High belief in free will has been linked to a punitive attitude toward wrongdoers and lower forgiveness toward them. The belief seems to involve a sense of agency and expecting others to behave in morally responsible fashion. (shrink)