Free Will: science vs philosophy
June 1, 2012
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Neil Levy (University of Melbourne/Oxford) writes on new scientific studies regarding how people’s beliefs about free will affect their actions. The article is in The Conversation here.
In the recent study by Rigoni and colleagues, the passages the participants read avoided [the problem that earlier studies had–not just denying the existence of free will, but mocking it]. Rather than mocking free will, the passages asserted that determinism was true and therefore all actions are determined (controls got neutral passages to read). Then belief in free will was measured, and participants performed a number of tasks.
The most important of these was the free decision task: subjects saw a ball roll down a ramp, and were instructed to stop it (by pressing a button) on some trials. The subjects who got the determinism passages professed a less strong belief in free will. They also pressed the button stopping the ball less often. They were also less likely to judge that early decisions made to press the button were the result of their choices.