Intersections among Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience

Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 402-417

First online:

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

  • Annemarie KalisAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Utrecht University Email author 
  • , Andreas MojzischAffiliated withGeorg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • , T. Sophie SchweizerAffiliated withVrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • , Stefan KaiserAffiliated withRuprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg


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.