Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 402–417

Weakness of will, akrasia, and the neuropsychiatry of decision making: An interdisciplinary perspective


    • Department of PhilosophyUtrecht University
  • Andreas Mojzisch
    • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • T. Sophie Schweizer
    • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Stefan Kaiser
    • Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Intersections among Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience

DOI: 10.3758/CABN.8.4.402

Cite this article as:
Kalis, A., Mojzisch, A., Schweizer, T.S. et al. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience (2008) 8: 402. doi:10.3758/CABN.8.4.402


This article focuses on both daily forms of weakness of will as discussed in the philosophical debate (usually referred to as akrasia) and psychopathological phenomena as impairments of decision making. We argue that both descriptions of dysfunctional decision making can be organized within a common theoretical framework that divides the decision making process in three different stages: option generation, option selection, and action initiation. We first discuss our theoretical framework (building on existing models of decision-making stages), focusing on option generation as an aspect that has been neglected by previous models. In the main body of this article, we review how both philosophy and neuropsychiatry have provided accounts of dysfunction in each decision-making stage, as well as where these accounts can be integrated. Also, the neural underpinnings of dysfunction in the three different stages are discussed. We conclude by discussing advantages and limitations of our integrative approach.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008