Does encouraging a belief in determinism increase cheating? Reconsidering the value of believing in free will

Thomas Nadelhoffer*, Jason Shepard, Damien L. Crone, Jim A. C. Everett, Brian D. Earp, Neil Levy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A key source of support for the view that challenging people's beliefs about free will may undermine moral behavior is two classic studies by Vohs and Schooler (2008). These authors reported that exposure to certain prompts suggesting that free will is an illusion increased cheating behavior. In the present paper, we report several attempts to replicate this influential and widely cited work. Over a series of five studies (sample sizes of N = 162, N = 283, N = 268, N = 804, N = 982) (four preregistered) we tested the relationship between (1) anti-free-will prompts and free will beliefs and (2) free will beliefs and immoral behavior. Our primary task was to closely replicate the findings from Vohs and Schooler (2008) using the same or highly similar manipulations and measurements as the ones used in their original studies. Our efforts were largely unsuccessful. We suggest that manipulating free will beliefs in a robust way is more difficult than has been implied by prior work, and that the proposed link with immoral behavior may not be as consistent as previous work suggests.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104342
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCognition
Volume203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • free will
  • skepticism
  • moral behavior
  • cheating
  • replication

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