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5.4a.4. Free Will and Psychology (Free Will and Psychology on PhilPapers)

Ainslie, George (2001). Breakdown of Will. Cambridge University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: Ainslie argues that our responses to the threat of our own inconsistency determine the basic fabric of human culture. He suggests that individuals are more like populations of bargaining agents than like the hierarchical command structures envisaged by cognitive psychologists. The forces that create and constrain these populations help us understand so much that is puzzling in human action and interaction: from addictions and other self-defeating behaviors to the experience of willfulness, from pathological over-control and self-deception to subtler forms of behavior such as altruism, sadism, gambling, and the 'social construction' of belief. This book uniquely integrates approaches from experimental psychology, philosophy of mind, microeconomics, and decision science to present one of the most profound and expert accounts of human irrationality available. It will be of great interest to philosophers and an important resource for professionals and students in psychology, economics and political science
Andrew, Wayne K. (1980). Human freedom and the science of psychology. Journal of Mind and Behavior 1:271-290.   (Google)
Arieti, Silvano (1972). The Will to Be Human. [New York]Quadrangle Books.   (Google)
Assagioli, Roberto (1973). The Act of Will. New York,Viking Press.   (Google)
Audi, Robert N. (1976). B.f. Skinner on freedom, dignity, and the explanation of behavior. Behaviorism 4:163-186.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Baer, John; Kaufman, James C. & Baumeister, Roy F. (eds.) (2008). Are We Free?: Psychology and Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: 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
Batthyany, Alexander (2009). Mental Causation and Free Will after Libet and Soon: Reclaiming Conscious Agency. In Alexander Batthyany & Avshalom Elitzur (eds.), Irreducibly Conscious. Selected Papers on Consciousness. Winter.   (Google)
Abstract: There are numerous theoretical reasons which are usually said to undermine the case for mental causation. But in recent years, Libet‘s experiment on readiness potentials (Libet, Wright, and Gleason 1982; Libet, Gleason, Wright, and Pearl 1983), and a more recent replication by a research team led by John Dylan Haynes (Soon, C.S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.J., and Haynes, J.-D. [2008]) are often singled out because they appear to demonstrate empirically that consciousness is not causally involved in our choices and actions. In this paper, an alternative interpretation of these studies is offered; one which is in accordance both with the empirical evidence and also with the phenomenology of the will, demonstrating that the two opposing views of agency – both the ones that deny the reality of free will and the ones that affirm it – are equally compatible with the outcomes of these two experiments. On this basis, it is shown that the claim that the results on the timing of readiness potential tip the scales in favour of one or the other view cannot be justified - neither from a neurological, nor from a philosophical perspective.
Baumeister, Roy F.; Crescioni, A. William & Alquist, Jessica L. (forthcoming). Free will as advanced action control for human social life and culture. Neuroethics.   (Google)
Abstract: 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
Baumeister, Roy F.; Mele, Alfred R. & Vohs, Kathleen D. (eds.) (2010). Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work? University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: 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 ...
Bertelsen, Preben (2003). Free Will, Consciousness, and Self: Anthropological Perspectives on Psychology. Berghahn Books.   (Google)
Bergson, Henri (1913). Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Dover Publications.   (Google)
Abstract: Bergson argues for free will by showing that the arguments against it come from a confusion of different conceptions of time. As opposed to physicists' idea of measurable time, in human experience life is perceived as a continuous and unmeasurable flow rather than as a succession of marked-off states of consciousness--something that can be measured not quantitatively, but only qualitatively. His conclusion is that free will is an observable fact
Bergson, Henri (1971). Time and Free Will. New York,Humanities Press.   (Google)
Bratman, Michael (1987). Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Center for the Study of Language and Information.   (Google)
Abstract: What happens to our conception of mind and rational agency when we take seriously future-directed intentions and plans and their roles as inputs into further practical reasoning? The author's initial efforts in responding to this question resulted in a series of papers that he wrote during the early 1980s. In this book, Bratman develops further some of the main themes of these essays and also explores a variety of related ideas and issues. He develops a planning theory of intention. Intentions are treated as elements of partial plans of action. These plans play basic roles in practical reasoning, roles that support the organization of our activities over time and socially. Bratman explores the impact of this approach on a wide range of issues, including the relation between intention and intentional action, and the distinction between intended and expected effects of what one intends
Bullock, Merry (ed.) (1991). The Development of Intentional Action: Cognitive, Motivational, and Interactive Processes. Karger.   (Google)
Carter, Steven (1993). He's Scared, She's Scared: Understanding the Hidden Fears That Sabotage Your Relationships. Delacorte Press.   (Google)
Abstract: Available for the first time in paperback, this follow-up to the phenomenally successful Men Who Can't Love tackles the issue of commitmentphobia, that persistent obstacle to truly satisfying contemporary relationships. Authors Stephen Carter and Julia Sokol explore why modern men and women are torn between the desire for intimacy and the equally intense need for independence. Drawing on numerous interviews and real-life scenarios, and written with humor, insight, and the kind of wisdom gained by personal experience, He's Scared, She's Scared offes guidance for all of us who want genuine, sustained intimacy with our romantic partners. From the Trade Paperback edition
Carver, Charles S. (1998). On the Self-Regulation of Behavior. Cambridge University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: This book presents a thorough overview of a model of human functioning based on the idea that behavior is goal-directed and regulated by feedback control processes. It describes feedback processes and their application to behavior, considers goals and the idea that goals are organized hierarchically, examines affect as deriving from a different kind of feedback process, and analyzes how success expectancies influence whether people keep trying to attain goals or disengage. Later sections consider a series of emerging themes, including dynamic systems as a model for shifting among goals, catastrophe theory as a model for persistence, and the question of whether behavior is controlled or instead 'emerges'. Three chapters consider the implications of these various ideas for understanding maladaptive behavior, and the closing chapter asks whether goals are a necessity of life. Throughout, theory is presented in the context of diverse issues that link the theory to other literatures
Carney, Richard E. (1971). Risk-Taking Behavior; Concepts, Methods, and Applications to Smoking and Drug Abuse. Springfield, Ill.,Thomas.   (Google)
Dagsvik, John (1983). Discrete Dynamic Choice: An Extension of the Choice Models of Thurstone and Luce. I Kommisjon Hos H. Aschehoug Og Universitetsforlaget.   (Google)
de Soete, Geert; Feger, Hubert & Klauer, Karl C. (eds.) (1989). New Developments in Psychological Choice Modeling. Distributors for the United States and Canada, Elsevier Science Pub..   (Google)
Edmonds, Bruce (2004). Implementing free will. In D. N. Davis (ed.), Visions of Mind: Architectures for Cognition and Affect. IDEA Group Publishing.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Engeström, Yrjö; Miettinen, Reijo & Punamäki-Gitai, Raija-Leena (eds.) (1999). Perspectives on Activity Theory. Cambridge University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: Activity theory is an interdisciplinary approach to human sciences that originates in the cultural-historical psychology school, initiated by Vygotsky, Leont'ev, and Luria. It takes the object-oriented, artifact-mediated collective activity system as its unit of analysis, thus bridging the gulf between the individual subject and the societal structure. This volume is the first comprehensive presentation of contemporary work in activity theory, with 26 original chapters by authors from ten countries. In Part I of the book, central theoretical issues are discussed from different points of view. Some topics addressed in this part are epistemology, methodology, and the relationship between biological and cultural factors. Part II is devoted to the acquisition and development of language - a theme that played a central role in the work of Vygotsky and Luria. This part includes a chapter that analyzes writing activity in Japanese classrooms, and an original case study of literacy skills of a man with cerebral palsy. Part III contains chapters on play, learning, and education, and part IV addresses the meaning of new technology and the development of work activities. The final part covers issues of therapy and addiction
Essau, Cecilia (1992). Primary-Secondary Control and Coping: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. S. Roderer Verlag.   (Google)
Fogel, Alan; Lyra, Maria C. D. P. & Valsiner, Jaan (eds.) (1997). Dynamics and Indeterminism in Developmental and Social Processes. L. Erlbaum.   (Google)
Abstract: One of the most profound insights of the dynamic systems perspective is that new structures resulting from the developmental process do not need to be planned in advance, nor is it necessary to have these structures represented in genetic or neurological templates prior to their emergence. Rather, new structures can emerge as components of the individual and the environment self-organize; that is, as they mutually constrain each other's actions, new patterns and structures may arise. This theoretical possibility brings into developmental theory the important concept of indeterminism--the possibility that developmental outcomes may not be predictable in any simple linear causal way from their antecedents. This is the first book to take a critical and serious look at the role of indeterminism in psychological and behavioral development. * What is the source of this indeterminism? * What is its role in developmental change? * Is it merely the result of incomplete observational data or error in measurement? It reviews the concepts of indeterminism and determinism in their historical, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives--particularly in relation to dynamic systems thinking--and applies these general ideas to systems of nonverbal communication. Stressing the indeterminacy inherent to symbols and meaning making in social systems, several chapters address the issue of indeterminism from metaphorical, modeling, and narrative perspectives. Others discuss those indeterministic processes within the individual related to emotional, social, and cognitive development
Frese, Michael & Sabini, John (eds.) (1985). Goal Directed Behavior: The Concept of Action in Psychology. L. Erlbaum Associates.   (Google)
Frith, Christopher D. (1996). Commentary on free will in the light of neuropsychiatry. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 3 (2):91-93.   (Cited by 6 | Google)
Friedman, Myles I. (1991). The Psychology of Human Control: A General Theory of Purposeful Behavior. Praeger.   (Google)
Ginsburg, G. P.; Brenner, Marylin & von Cranach, Mario (eds.) (1985). Discovery Strategies in the Psychology of Action. Academic Press.   (Google)
Good, I. J. (1971). Free will and speed of computation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):48-50.   (Google | More links)
Griffith, Richard M. (1962). The reality of an illusion: A psychology of as-if free will. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23 (December):232-242.   (Google | More links)
Harcum, E. Rae (1994). A Psychology of Freedom and Dignity: The Last Train to Survival. Praeger.   (Google)
Harcum, E. Rae (1991). Behavioral paradigm for a psychological resolution of the free will issue. Journal of Mind and Behavior 93:93-114.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Harré, Rom (1985). Motives and Mechanisms: An Introduction to the Psychology of Action. Methuen.   (Google)
Haughey, John C. (1975). Should Anyone Say Forever?: On Making, Keeping, and Breaking Commitments. Doubleday.   (Google)
Hershberger, Wayne A. (ed.) (1989). Volitional Action: Conation and Control. Distributors for the U.S. And Canada, Elsevier Science.   (Google)
Hodgson, David (2002). Physics, consciousness and free will. In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook on Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 9 | Google)
Holton, Richard (2009). Determinism, self-efficacy, and the phenomenology of free will. Inquiry 52 (4):412 – 428.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or engage in vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible. I suggest a different explanation, and in doing so try to shed some light on the phenomenology of free will. I contend that one aspect of the phenomenology is our impression that maintaining a resolution requires effort—an impression well supported by a range of psychological data. Determinism can easily be interpreted as showing that such effort will be futile: in effect determinism is conflated with fatalism, in a way that is reminiscent of the Lazy argument used against the Stoics. If this interpretation is right, it explains how belief in determinism undermines moral motivation without needing to attribute sophisticated incompatibilist beliefs to subjects; it works by undermining subjects' self-efficacy. It also provides indirect support for the contention that this is one of the sources of the phenomenology of free will
Holton, Richard (forthcoming). Response to 'free will as advanced action control for human social life and culture' by Roy F. Baumeister, A. William crescioni and Jessica L. alquist. Neuroethics.   (Google)
Holton, Richard (2004). Review of Daniel Wegner, The illusion of conscious will. Mind 113 (449):218-221.   (Google)
Honderich, Ted (2001). Mind the guff. Journal Of Consciousness Studies 8 (4):62-78.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: (I) John Searle's conception of consciousness in the 'Mind the Gap' issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies remains short on content, no advance on either materialism or traditional dualism. Still, it is sufficiently contentful to be self-contradictory. And so his Biological Subjectivity on Two Levels, like materialism and dualism, needs replacing by a radically different conception of consciousness -- such as Consciousness as Existence. (II) From his idea that we can discover 'gaps', seeming absences of causal circumstances, in our experience of deciding and acting, Searle is led to the positing of a self and to mysterious causing. (III) In fact philosophers of determinism and freedom over three centuries have concerned themselves with what are now termed 'gaps'. Searle's advance is a useful terminological one. Compatibilist philosophers of freedom, contrary to what is said, have not missed any point at all. A successor to both Compatibilism and Incompatibilism is needed. (IV) Searle's previous account of deciding and acting in Biological Subjectivity on Two Levels does indeed fail because of its epiphenomenalism. (V) The culmination of his paper, his preferred hypothesis now about deciding and acting, is that down-up causation is true of it but not left-right causation. Quantum Theory as often interpreted doesn't work down-up but does work left-right. The hypothesis is entirely in the tradition of the Incompatibilist and Libertarian philosophers of determinism and freedom, whom Searle has joined, but is factually incredible
Kane, Robert H. (online). Symposium: The psychology of free will. Commentary.   (Google)
Abstract: These three papers are exceptionally rich and varied and I will be selective in responding. My aim is to relate the psychological research they discuss to the broader context of current philosophical debates about free will
Kiesler, Charles A. (1971). The Psychology of Commitment. New York,Academic Press.   (Google)
Kusyszyn, Igor (ed.) (1976). Gambling, Risk-Taking, Play, and Personality: A Bibliography. S.N.].   (Google)
Lefcourt, Herbert M. (ed.) (1981). Research with the Locus of Control Construct. Academic Press.   (Google)
Abstract: v. 1. Assessment methods -- v. 2. Developments and social problems -- v. 3. Extensions and limitations.
Leiter, Brian, Nietzsche's philosophy of action.   (Google)
Abstract: Nietzsche holds that people lack freedom of the will in any sense that would be sufficient for ascriptions of moral responsibility; that the conscious experience we have of willing is actually epiphenomenal with respect to the actions that follow that experience; and that our actions largely arise through non-conscious processes (psychological and physiological) of which we are only dimly aware, and over which we exercise little or no conscious control. At the same time, Nietzsche, always a master of rhetoric, engages in a “persuasive definition” (Stevenson 1938) of the language of “freedom” and “free will,” to associate the positive valence of these terms with a certain Nietzschean ideal of the person unrelated to traditional notions of free will
Levy, Neil (online). Are zombies responsible? The role of consciousness in moral responsibility.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Compatibilists often think they can afford to be complacent with regard to scientific findings. But there are apparent threats to free will besides determinism. Robert Kane has recently claimed that if consciousness does not initiate action, all accounts of free will go down, compatibilist and incompatibilist. Some cognitive scientists argue that in fact consciousness does not initiate action. In this paper I argue that they are right (though not for the reasons they advance): as a matter of fact consciousness does not initiate action. But, I contend, Kane is wrong in thinking that it follows that we have no free will. I sketch how we might have free will in spite of the finding that consciousness does not initiate action, and remark on the implications for several well-known accounts of responsibility, include Clarke's agent-causal theory and Fischer and Ravizza's reasons-responsiveness account
Lichtenstein, Sarah & Slovic, Paul (eds.) (2006). The Construction of Preference. Cambridge University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: One of the main themes that has emerged from behavioral decision research during the past three decades is the view that people's preferences are often constructed in the process of elicitation. This idea is derived from studies demonstrating that normatively equivalent methods of elicitation (e.g., choice and pricing) give rise to systematically different responses. These preference reversals violate the principle of procedure invariance that is fundamental to all theories of rational choice. If different elicitation procedures produce different orderings of options, how can preferences be defined and in what sense do they exist? This book shows not only the historical roots of preference construction but also the blossoming of the concept within psychology, law, marketing, philosophy, environmental policy, and economics. Decision making is now understood to be a highly contingent form of information processing, sensitive to task complexity, time pressure, response mode, framing, reference points, and other contextual factors
Maasen, Sabine & Sutter, Barbara (eds.) (2007). On Willing Selves: Neoliberal Politics Vis-?-Vis the Neuroscientific Challenge. Plagrave Macmiilan.   (Google)
Abstract: Currently, the neurosciences challenge the concept of will to be scientifically untenable, specifying that it is our brain rather than our "self" that decides what we want to do. At the same time, we seem to be confronted with increasing possibilities and necessities of free choice in all areas of social life. Based on up-to-date (empirical) research in the social sciences and philosophy, the authors convened in this book address this seeming contradiction: By differentiating the physical, the psychic, and the social realm, the neuroscientific findings can be acknowledged within a comprehensive framework of selves in neoliberal societies
Maasen, Sabine; Prinz, Wolfgang & Roth, Gerhard (eds.) (2003). Voluntary Action: Brains, Minds, and Sociality. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: We all know what a voluntary action is - we all think we know when an action is voluntary, and when it is not. Yet, performing and action and defining it are different matters. What counts as an action? When does it begin? Does the conscious desire to perform an action always precede the act? If not, is it really a voluntary action? This is a debate that crosses the boundaries of Philosophy, Neuroscience, Psychology, and Social Science. This book brings together some to the leading thinkers from these disciplines to consider this deep and often puzzling topic. The result is a fascinating and stimulating debate that will challenge our fundamental assumptions about our sense of free-will
Mahan, Asa (1847). Doctrine of the Will. Ams Press.   (Google)
Mandler, George (2004). Free will for everyone – with flaws. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5):669-669.   (Google)
Abstract: Wegner's refutation of the notion of a conscious free will is addressed to a general reader. Despite a wide ranging and instructive survey and a conclusion acceptable to current psychological thinking, it is flawed by terminological confusions and lack of attention to relevant evidence and previous psychological approaches. It is suggested that psychology best drop the term will altogether
Mandler, George (1974). The appearance of free will. In Philosophy Of Psychology. Macmillan.   (Cited by 6 | Google)
Mandler, George (2005). The consciousness continuum: From "qualia" to "free will". Psychological Research/Psychologische Forschung. Vol 69 (5-6):330-337.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Mason, Marilyn J. (1997). Seven Mountains: The Inner Climb to Commitment and Caring. Dutton.   (Google)
McCrone, John (1999). A bifold model of free will. Journal of Consciousness Studies 5 (8-9):241-59.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Mele, Alfred R. (2009). Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: Each of the following claims has been defended in the scientific literature on free will and consciousness: your brain routinely decides what you will do before you become conscious of its decision; there is only a 100 millisecond window of opportunity for free will, and all it can do is veto conscious decisions, intentions, or urges; intentions never play a role in producing corresponding actions; and free will is an illusion. In Effective Intentions Alfred Mele shows that the evidence offered to support these claims is sorely deficient. He also shows that there is strong empirical support for the thesis that some conscious decisions and intentions have a genuine place in causal explanations of corresponding actions. In short, there is weighty evidence of the existence of effective conscious intentions or the power of conscious will. Mele examines the accuracy of subjects' reports about when they first became aware of decisions or intentions in laboratory settings and develops some implications of warranted skepticism about the accuracy of these reports. In addition, he explores such questions as whether we must be conscious of all of our intentions and why scientists disagree about this. Mele's final chapter closes with a discussion of imaginary scientific findings that would warrant bold claims about free will and consciousness of the sort he examines in this book.
Miller, John G. (2004). Qbq!: The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life. G. P. Putnam's Sons.   (Google)
Abstract: Who Moved My Cheese? showed readers how to adapt to change. Fish! helped raise flagging morale. Execution guided readers to overcome the inability to get things done. QBQ! The Question Behind the Question , already a phenomenon in its self-published edition, addresses the most important issue in business and society today: personal accountability. The lack of personal accountability has resulted in an epidemic of blame, complaining, and procrastination. No organization-or individual-can achieve goals, compete in the marketplace, fulfill a vision, or develop people and teams without personal accountability. The solution involves an entirely new approach. We can no longer ask, "Who dropped the ball?" "Why can't they do their work properly?" or "Why do we have to go through all these changes?" Instead, every individual has to ask the question behind the question: "How can I improve this situation?" "What can I contribute?" or "How can I make a difference?" Succinct, insightful, and practical, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question provides a method for putting personal accountability into daily action, which can bring astonishing results: problems get solved, barriers come down, service improves, teamwork grows, and people adapt to change
Moghaddam, Fathali M. (1998). Illusions of Control: Striving for Control in Our Personal and Professional Lives. Praeger.   (Google)
Mohanty, Jitendranath (1972). The Concept Of Intentionality. Warren H. Green Inc..   (Cited by 15 | Google)
Monroe, Andrew E. & Malle, Bertram F. (2010). From uncaused will to conscious choice: The need to study, not speculate about people's folk concept of free will. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: People’s concept of free will is often assumed to be incompatible with the deterministic, scientific model of the universe. Indeed, many scholars treat the folk concept of free will as assuming a special form of nondeterministic causation, possibly the notion of uncaused causes. However, little work to date has directly probed individuals’ beliefs about what it means to have free will. The present studies sought to reconstruct this folk concept of free will by asking people to define the concept (Study 1) and by confronting them with a neuroscientific claim that free will is an illusion (Study 2), which invited them to either reconcile or contrast free will with determinism. The results suggest that the core of people’s concept of free will is a choice that fulfills one’s desires and is free from internal or external constraints. No evidence was found for metaphysical assumptions about dualism or indeterminism.
Nadelhoffer, Thomas (online). Folk intuitions, slippery slopes, and necessary fictions: An essay on Saul Smilansky's free will illusionism.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: During the past two decades, an interest among philosophers in fictitious and illusory beliefs has sprung up in fields ranging anywhere from mathematics and modality to morality.1 In this paper, we focus primarily on the view that Saul Smilansky has dubbed “free will illusionism”—i.e., the purportedly descriptive claim that most people have illusory beliefs concerning the existence of libertarian free will, coupled with the normative claim that because dispelling these illusory beliefs would produce negative personal and societal consequences, those of us who happen to know the dangerous and gloomy truth about the non-existence of libertarian free will should simply keep quiet in the name of the common good
Nadelhoffer, Thomas & Matveeva, Tatyana (2009). Positive illusions, perceived control and the free will debate. Mind and Language 24 (5):495-522.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: It is a common assumption among both philosophers and psychologists that having accurate beliefs about ourselves and the world around us is always the epistemic gold standard. However, there is gathering data from social psychology that suggest that illusions are quite prevalent in our everyday thinking and that some of these illusions may even be conducive to our overall well being. In this paper, we explore the relevance of these so-called 'positive illusions' to the free will debate. More specifically, we use the literature on positive illusions as a springboard for examining Saul Smilansky's so-called 'free will illusionism'. At the end of the day, we will use data from both social and developmental psychology concerning perceived control to try to show that his view is on shaky empirical footing
Nahmias, Eddy A.; Morris, Stephen G.; Nadelhoffer, Thomas & Turner, Jason (2005). Surveying freedom: Folk intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. Philosophical Psychology 18 (5):561–584.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research
Nahmias, Eddy (2007). Autonomous agency and the threat of social psychology. In M. Marraffa, M. Caro & F. Ferretti (eds.), Cartographies of the Mind: Philosophy and Psychology in Intersection. Springer.   (Google)
Abstract: This chapter discusses how research in situationist social psychology may pose largely undiscussed threats to autonomous agency, free will, and moral responsibility.
Nahmias, Eddy (2007). Autonomous Agency and Social Psychology. In Massimo Marraffa, Mario Cardeo & Francesco Ferretti (eds.), Cartographies of the Mind: Philosophy and Psychology in Intersection. Springer.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: But other threats to autonomy are less often discussed, threats that are not metaphysical or political but psychological. These are threats based on putative facts about human psychology that suggest we do not govern our behavior according to principles we have consciously chosen. For instance, if our behavior were governed primarily by unconscious Freudian desires rather than by our reflectively considered desires, we would be much less autonomous than we presume. Or if our behaviors were the result of a history of Skinnerian reinforcement rather than conscious consideration, our actions would be shaped by our environment more than by our principles. Since the influence of Freud and Skinner has waned, we might feel we have escaped such threats to our autonomy from psychology. But, as I will explain below, more recent and viable theories and evidence from social psychology pose significant threats to autonomous agency.
Nahmias, Eddy A. (2006). Folk fears about freedom and responsibility: Determinism vs. reductionism. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1-2):215-237.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract: My initial work, with collaborators Stephen Morris, Thomas Nadelhoffer, and Jason Turner (2005, 2006), on surveying folk intuitions about free will and moral responsibility was designed primarily to test a common claim in the philosophical debates: that ordinary people see an obvious conflict between determinism and both free will and moral responsibility, and hence, the burden is on compatibilists to motivate their theory in a way that explains away or overcomes this intuitive support for incompatibilism. The evidence, if any, offered by philosophers to support the claim that incompatibilism is intuitive has consisted of reports of their own intuitions or informal polls of their students. We were skeptical about the reliability of such evidence, so we used the methodology--”now associated with the label 'experimental philosophy'--”of conducting formal surveys on non-philosophers. Our participants read a scenario that describes a deterministic universe and were then asked to judge whether agents in those scenarios act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. Using three different scenarios with hundreds of participants, we consistently found that the majority (2/3 to 4/5) responded that agents in deterministic universes do act of their own free will and are morally responsible. That is, we found that most ordinary folk do not seem to find incompatibilism intuitive or obviously correct. Our results have been challenged in various ways, philosophical and methodological. For instance, Shaun Nichols (2004, this volume) and Nichols and Joshua Knobe (unpublished) offer some experimental evidence suggesting that, in certain conditions, most people express incompatibilist and libertarian intuitions. I will respond to this work in the following section. I agree that people express conflicting intuitions about free will (after all, we consistently found a minority of participants expressing incompatibilist
Nichols, Shaun (2006). Free will and the folk: Responses to commentators. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6:305-320.   (Google)
Abstract: Experimental research on folk intuitions concerning free will is still in its infancy. So it is especially helpful to have such an excellent set of commentaries, and I greatly appreciate the work of the commentators in advancing the project. Because of space limitations, I can’t respond to all of the comments. I will focus on just a few issues that emerge from the comments that I think are especially promising for illumination
Nahmias, Eddy; Morris, Stephen G.; Nadelhoffer, Thomas & Turner, Jason (2004). The phenomenology of free will. Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (7-8):162-179.   (Cited by 8 | Google)
Abstract: Philosophers often suggest that their theories of free will are supported by our phenomenology. Just as their theories conflict, their descriptions of the phenomenology of free will often conflict as well. We suggest that this should motivate an effort to study the phenomenology of free will in a more systematic way that goes beyond merely the introspective reports of the philosophers themselves. After presenting three disputes about the phenomenology of free will, we survey the (limited) psychological research on the experiences relevant to the philosophical debates and then describe some pilot studies of our own with the aim of encouraging further research. The data seem to support compatibilist descriptions of the phenomenology more than libertarian descriptions. We conclude that the burden is on libertarians to find empirical support for their more demanding metaphysical theories with their more controversial phenomenological claims.
Nahmias, Eddy (forthcoming). The Psychology of Free Will. In Jesse Prinz (ed.), The Oxford Handbook on Philosophy of Psychology. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: I have argued that the traditional free will debate has focused too much on whether free will is compatible with determinism and not enough on whether free will is compatible with specific causal explanations for our actions, including those offered by empirical psychology. If free will is understood as a set of cognitive and volitional capacities, possessed and exercised to varying degrees, then psychology can inform us about the extent to which humans (as a species and as individuals) possess those capacities and manage to exercise them across various situations. While recent work on the role of consciousness in action has been misinterpreted to suggest its role is illusory, recent work in social psychology presents a more viable challenge to our free will. The extent to which we can act on reasons we would accept or can know why we are doing what we do appears to be much less than we presume. Further work is necessary, of course, and it will need to involve both philosophical analysis and psychological investigation. Questions regarding the nature of human freedom and responsibility clearly require the conceptual resources of philosophy and the empirical resources of psychology.
Nichols, Shaun (2006). Folk intuitions on free will. Journal of Cognition and Culture.   (Cited by 7 | Google | More links)
Abstract: This paper relies on experimental methods to explore the psychological underpinnings of folk intuitions about free will and responsibility. In different conditions, people give conflicting responses about agency and responsibility. In some contexts, people treat agency as indeterminist; in other contexts, they treat agency as determinist. Furthermore, in some contexts people treat responsibility as incompatible with determinism, and in other contexts people treat responsibility as compatible with determinism. The paper considers possible accounts of the psychological mechanisms that underlie these conflicting responses
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Abstract: Are people free and morally responsible? Or are their actions determined, i.e. inevitable outcomes of the past conditions and the laws of nature? These seem fairly straightforward questions, but it is important to distinguish 3 different dimensions of the free will debate: a descriptive project, a substantive project, and a prescriptive project. In this chapter, I’ll consider how psychology can contribute to each project in turn. First, I should say a bit more about the projects
Nichols, Shaun (2004). The folk psychology of free will: Fits and starts. Mind and Language 19 (5):473-502.   (Cited by 23 | Google | More links)
Abstract: According to agent-causal accounts of free will, agents have the capacity to cause actions, and for a given action, an agent could have done otherwise. This paper uses existing results and presents experimental evidence to argue that young children deploy a notion of agent-causation. If young children do have such a notion, however, it remains quite unclear how they acquire it. Several possible acquisition stories are canvassed, including the possibility that the notion of agent-causation develops from a prior notion of obligation. Finally, the paper sets out how this work might illuminate the philosophical problem of free will
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Abstract: First, unlike a good many philosophical puzzles that absorb the efforts of professional philosophers, the web of problems surrounding free will does not take philosophical training to appreciate. It is a ubiquitously accessible problem discussed at length by novelists, poets, musicians, scientists, religious believers, atheists, and more than a few undergraduates in late- night discussions. At least in the Western philosophical tradition it is also a very old problem: versions of it can be found at least as far back as the Stoics and the Epicureans, and arguably in Aristotle. Taken as a whole, these considerations suggest that at least a significant source of puzzles about free will can be found in aspects of our thinking that are available to us at easily accessible levels of reflection. Second, over the past 30 years or so, the philosophical arsenal of incompatibilists
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Abstract: This paper responds to continuing commentary on Velmans (2002a) “How could conscious experiences affect brains,” a target article for a special issue of JCS. I focus on the final question dealt with by the target article: how free will relates to preconscious and conscious mental processing, and I develop the case for preconscious free will. Although “preconscious free will” might appear to be a contradiction in terms, it is consistent with the scientific evidence and provides a parsimonious way to reconcile the commonsense view that voluntary acts are freely chosen with the evidence that conscious wishes and decisions are determined by preconscious processing in the mind/brain. I consider alternative interpretations of how “conscious free will” might operate by Libet and by Mangan and respond to doubts about the extent to which the operations of mind are revealed in consciousness, raised by Claxton and Bouratinos. In reconciling commonsense attributions of freedom and responsibility with the findings of science, preconscious free will can be shown to have practical consequences for adjudications in law
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