Are free will believers nicer people? (Four studies suggest not)

Damien L. Crone*, Neil L. Levy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Free will is widely considered a foundational component of Western moral and legal codes, and yet current conceptions of free will are widely thought to fit uncomfortably with much research in psychology and neuroscience. Recent research investigating the consequences of laypeople’s free will beliefs (FWBs) for everyday moral behavior suggests that stronger FWBs are associated with various desirable moral characteristics (e.g., greater helpfulness, less dishonesty). These findings have sparked concern regarding the potential for moral degeneration throughout society as science promotes a view of human behavior that is widely perceived to undermine the notion of free will. We report four studies (combined N = 921) originally concerned with possible mediators and/or moderators of the abovementioned associations. Unexpectedly, we found no association between FWBs and moral behavior. Our findings suggest that the FWB–moral behavior association (and accompanying concerns regarding decreases in FWBs causing moral degeneration) may be overstated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-619
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • agency
  • altruism
  • ethics/morality
  • helping/prosocial behavior
  • individual differences
  • morality
  • personality

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