Friday, August 28, 2020

Reconsidering the value of believing in free will.

Nadelhoffer et al. fail to replicate 2008 experiments suggesting that a belief in determinism increases cheating:
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.

1 comment:

  1. This isn't necessarily related to the ethics of convincing people they don't have free will, but:

    My own view on 'free will' has changed quite a bit over the last few years, as I've thought about it. I've been sort of trying to reconcile the apparently deterministic nature of fundamental physics with the subjective experience of making choices. To that end, I think it's a matter of abstraction.

    In my view, the world we live in is a highly abstract model - we don't interact with it on the level of fundamental physics, at least not commonly. We spend our whole lives constructing this model, and using it to inform our beliefs and behaviors through the course of our lives. It is at this level of abstraction that we have and make choices - that we have 'free will.' They are *real choices*, at this level of abstraction. It's not an illusion at all, because we only ever live at this level of high abstraction.

    What those abstractions represent are of course the physics that underlie all of our interactions with the world, and ourselves, and those physics are (almost certainly) deterministic. At the bottom, there is no choice; just cause and effect.

    So I guess 'choice' is like 'wetness' - just another example of emergent phenomena.

    Anyway thanks for giving me a place to ramble. :3