, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 402-417

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

Abstract

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.

The collaboration among the authors was made possible by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation, and the article was written as part of the “European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities” initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation.