The Value of Believing in Free Will

  title={The Value of Believing in Free Will},
  author={Kathleen D. Vohs and Jonathan W. Schooler},
  journal={Psychological Science},
  pages={49 - 54}
Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read either text that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., that portrayed behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors) or neutral text. Exposure to the deterministic message increased cheating on a task in which participants could passively allow a flawed… 

Figures from this paper

Free to punish: a motivated account of free will belief.

It is functional for holding others morally responsible and facilitates justifiably punishing harmful members of society and the real-world prevalence of immoral behavior predicted free will belief on a country level.

Free to help? An experiment on free will belief and altruism

The findings indicate that the effects of free will belief on prosocial behavior are more nuanced than previously suggested.

The Correlates and Consequences of Believing in Free Will

Research has indicated that weakening people’s belief in free will may likewise weaken their belief in moral responsibility and potentially license them to morally transgress. Recent studies in

The Influence of (Dis)belief in Free Will on Immoral Behavior

The results show that participants who were primed with a text defending neural determinism – the idea that humans are a mere bunch of neurons guided by their biology – administered fewer shocks and were less vindictive toward the other participant, and this finding only held for female participants, showing the complex interaction between gender, beliefs in free will and moral behavior.

Manipulating Belief in Free Will and Its Downstream Consequences: A Meta-Analysis

  • O. GenschowEmiel Cracco J. Schooler
  • Psychology, Philosophy
    Personality and social psychology review : an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc
  • 2022
Ever since some scientists and popular media put forward the idea that free will is an illusion, the question has risen what would happen if people stopped believing in free will. Psychological

Belief in free will affects causal attributions when judging others’ behavior

Overall, these studies show that believing in free will impacts fundamental social-cognitive processes that are involved in the understanding of others’ behavior, and psychological research demonstrates that questioning its existence impacts social behavior.

This Isn’t the Free Will Worth Looking For

According to previous research, threatening people’s belief in free will may undermine moral judgments and behavior. Four studies tested this claim. Study 1 used a Velten technique to threaten

Professional Judges’ Disbelief in Free Will Does Not Decrease Punishment

There is a debate in psychology and philosophy on the societal consequences of casting doubts about individuals’ belief in free will. Research suggests that experimentally reducing free will beliefs



Individual Differences in Motivated Social Cognition: The Case of Self-Serving Information Processing

These experiments suggest that people who show motivated processing in ego-protective domains also show motivated Processing in extrinsic domains, and introduce a new measurement procedure for differentiating between intentional versus rationalized cheating.

Free Will in Scientific Psychology

  • R. Baumeister
  • Psychology
    Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science
  • 2008
Human evolution seems to have created a relatively new, more complex form of action control that corresponds to popular notions of free will, marked by self-control and rational choice, both of which are highly adaptive, especially for functioning within culture.

The illusion of conscious will

Wegner (Wegner, D. (2002). The illusion of conscious will. MIT Press) argues that conscious will is an illusion, citing a wide range of empirical evidence. I shall begin by surveying some of his

Some Observations on the Psychology of Thinking About Free Will

Do we have free will, or don’t we? The problem of free will is hard, and important. Indeed, I will argue that it is one of our hardest intellectual problems, and it is hard because it is also one of

The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Concept Maintenance

People like to think of themselves as honest. However, dishonesty pays—and it often pays well. How do people resolve this tension? This research shows that people behave dishonestly enough to profit

For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything.

  • Joshua D. GreeneJ. Cohen
  • Philosophy, Biology
    Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
  • 2004
It is argued that neuroscience will probably have a transformative effect on the law, despite the fact that existing legal doctrine can, in principle, accommodate whatever neuroscience will tell us.

Schooling without learning: thirty years of cheating in high school.

Over the three decades covered by this study, dishonesty was viewed as increasingly necessary, more people believed advertising was suspect, and success in business was attributed to fraudulent activities.

Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement.

  • J. Rotter
  • Psychology
    Psychological monographs
  • 1966
This report summarizes several experiments which define group differences in behavior when Ss perceive reinforcement as contingent on their behavior versus chance or experimenter control.

Suppression, accessibility of death-related thoughts, and cultural worldview defense: exploring the psychodynamics of terror management.

Study 3 demonstrated that worldview defense in response to MS reduces the delayed increase in death accessibility, suggesting that a person's initial response to conscious thoughts of mortality is to actively suppress death thoughts.

It's Beyond My Control: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of Increasing Externality in Locus of Control, 1960-2002

  • J. TwengeLiqing ZhangCharles Im
  • Psychology
    Personality and social psychology review : an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc
  • 2004
Two meta-analyses found that young Americans increasingly believe their lives are controlled by outside forces rather than their own efforts, consistent with an alienation model positing increases in cynicism, individualism, and the self-serving bias.