Iâ€™ve written about free will before. Several times. And yet I exercise my free will by writing about it again. Or maybe my genetics and environmental influences have programmed me to write about it. If so, you canâ€™t possibly be annoyed with me, right?
One of the major issues Iâ€™ve addressed in previous writings is that without free will, our â€œchoicesâ€ are programmed not chosen, and therefore, we have no responsibility for who we are or what we do.
Well, it turns out Iâ€™m not the only one addressing that issue.
The article Giving Up the Ghost **in this quarterâ€™s issue of Psychology Today sets aside the debate about whether free will actually exists or not, and instead focuses on how the perception of no free will affects a personâ€™s behavior.
The article cites a study reviewed in Psychological Science that revealed that â€œreducing belief in free will makes people more likely to cheat.â€ The study involved a 15-question test that the subjects graded themselves, taking $1.00 per correct answer. Subjects that first read statements indicating that free will is an illusion consistently cheated while grading, thus taking home more dough.
Katherine Vohs, lead author at the University of Minnesota, says, â€œTo resist temptations, people need to have a senses that they govern their own behaviors.â€
But isnâ€™t the underlying assumption of that statement that people do govern their own behavior? Or is she saying that leading people to think they govern their own behavior programs them to behave better?
The concept of free will is regarded as shaky at best among the scientific and skeptical community, however, the implications go largely undiscussed. For example, the defense that people arenâ€™t responsible for their actions wonâ€™t work in the courtroom.
Stephen Morse, professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, calls such implications â€œthe pernicious belief that once you discover a cause for behavior â€“ biological, psychological, sociological, or astrological â€“ somehow the person should be excused. But if causation is an excuse, then everyone is excused and no one is responsible.â€
In a study done by Joshua Knobe, professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, a majority of people said that â€œfull moral responsibility is impossible in a deterministic universeâ€. However, when the same people were presented with the case of a man who â€œtorched his family and ran off with his secretaryâ€, they backpedaled.
So the debate and discomfort over free will and its implications goes on. But meanwhile, studies show that the perception our lack of free will seems to affect our actions. And not for the better. So perhaps free will is a delusion we are better off having.
**Iâ€™m sorry thereâ€™s no link. This is a print article and is not available online (that I can find).