Implicit attitudes and the social capacity for free will

Daphne Brandenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper I ask what implicit attitudes tell us about our freedom. I analyze the relation between the literature on implicit attitudes and an important subcategory of theories of free will—self-disclosure accounts. If one is committed to such a theory, I suggest one may have to move to a more social conceptualization of the capacity for freedom. I will work out this argument in five sections. In the first section, I discuss the specific theories of free will that are central to this paper. In the second section, I will show that implicit-bias research raises questions about people’s capacities to exercise (these specific understandings of) free will. In the third section, I will consider how an individual may overcome these failures and argue that the individual ability for self-regulation is significantly limited. One could stop here and conclude that free will is a limited capacity. But I argue that this conclusion would be too hastily drawn. I will instead continue to ask what would be required for free will. By discussing how failures of free will are due to social structures and may be therefore repaired by changing social structures in section 4, I will arrive at an alternative conclusion about the capacity for free will in section 5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1228
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Associative learning
  • free will
  • implicit attitudes
  • relational autonomy
  • self-disclosure
  • self-regulation
  • social scaffolding


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