Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Value of Believing in Free Will

Vohs, K.D. & Schooler, J.W. (2008). The Value of Believing in Free Will. Psychological Science, 19, 1, 49-54.

This study found that weakening people's belief in free-will increased ignoble behaviors, specifically cheating. In the first experiment, a passive cheating paradigm was explored in which a computer "glitch" allowed the correct answer to a question to be flashed onto the screen unless the participant explicitly suppressed it. The experimental group was read a statement encouraging a belief in determinism, while the control condition was read an unrelated statement. Those in the experimental group showed weaker free will beliefs and more frequent cheating.

In the second experiment, an active cheating paradigm was explored. After reading either a pro-free-will statement or an anti-free-will statement, participants were left in the room on the "honor system" and told to reward themselves for their number of correct responses. In this experiment, as in the previous one, participants were under the impression that their anonymity was preserved. Results were similar with the determinism condition showing weaker free will beliefs and higher than average cheating. Thus, people's beliefs regarding their sense of control and self-agency may have social implications.

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