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)
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)
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.
Transcendence, defined as the capacity to perceive the immediate stimulus environment in relation to long-range or abstract concerns, is a key aspect of self-control, and indeed self-regulation often breaks down because attention becomes focused exclusively on the immediate stimuli (i.e., transcendence fails). Factors that restrict attention to the here and now will weaken self-control, whereas factors that promote transcendence will enhance it. Guilt may be one example of the latter.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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 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)