Advertisement

Neuroethics

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Free Will as Advanced Action Control for Human Social Life and Culture

  • Roy F. Baumeister
  • A. William Crescioni
  • Jessica L. Alquist
Original paper

Abstract

Free will can be understood as a novel form of action control that evolved to meet the escalating demands of human social life, including moral action and pursuit of enlightened self-interest in a cultural context. That understanding is conducive to scientific research, which is reviewed here in support of four hypotheses. First, laypersons tend to believe in free will. Second, that belief has behavioral consequences, including increases in socially and culturally desirable acts. Third, laypersons can reliably distinguish free actions from less free ones. Fourth, actions judged as free emerge from a distinctive set of inner processes, all of which share a common psychological and physiological signature. These inner processes include self-control, rational choice, planning, and initiative.

Keywords

Free will Self-control Morality Culture Rational choice Initiative 

Notes

Acknowledgement

We gratefully acknowledge grant support by the Templeton Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

References

  1. 1.
    Dunbar, R.I.M. 1993. Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16: 681–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Baumeister, R.F. 2005. The cultural animal: Human nature, meaning, and social life. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harris, M. 1978. Cannibals and kings: The origins of cultures. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kant, I. 1967/1797. Kritik der praktischen Vernunft [Critique of practical reason]. Hamburg, Germany: Felix Meiner Verlag.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Stillman, T.F., E. Sparks, and R.F. Baumeister. 2008. Perceiving free will. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dennett, D.C. 1984. Elbow room: The varieties of free will worthwanting. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dennett, D.C. 2003. Freedom evolves. New York: Viking/Penguin.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mele, A.R. 2001. Autonomous agents: From self-control to autonomy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Searle, J.R. 2001. Rationality in action. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Paulhus, D.L., and A. Margesson. 1994. Free Will and Determinism (FAD) scale. Unpublished manuscript, University of British Columbia,Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Vohs, K.D., and J.W. Schooler. 2008. The value of believing in free will: Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science 19: 49–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Baumeister, R.F., E.J. Masicampo, and C.N. DeWall. 2009. Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35: 260–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Alquist, J.L., and R.F. Baumeister. 2008. [Free will and conformity]. Unpublished raw data / manuscript in preparation, Florida State University.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Stillman, T.F. and Baumeister, R.F. 2008. Belief in free will supports guilt over personal misdeeds. Unpublished findings. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kane, R. 2005. A contemporary introduction to free will. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Alquist, J.L., M. Daly, T. Stillman, and R.F. Baumeister. 2009. [Belief in determinism decreases counterfactual thinking]. Unpublished raw data.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Epstude, K., and N.J. Roese. 2008. The functional theory of counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology 12: 168–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Roese, N. 1999. Counterfactual thinking and decision making. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 6: 570–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Stillman, T.F., R.F. Baumeister, F.D. Fincham, T.E. Joiner, N.M. Lambert, A.R. Mele, and D.M. Tice. 2008. Guilty, free, and wise. Belief in free will promotes learning from negative emotions. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bar-Hillel, M. 2007. Randomness is too important to be trusted to chance. Presented at the 2007 Summer Institute in Informed Patient Choice, Dartmouth Medical School, NH.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Wagenaar, W.A. 1972. Generation of random sequences by human subjects: A critical survey of literature. Psychological Bulletin 77: 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Baumeister, R.F., and J.J. Exline. 1999. Virtue, personality, and social relations: Self-control as the moral muscle. Journal of Personality 67: 1165–1194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Paulhus, D.L., and K. Levitt. 1987. Desirable responding triggered by affect: Automatic egotism? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52: 245–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Carver, C.S., and M.F. Scheier. 1981. Attention and self-regulation: A control theory approach to human behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Carver, C.S., and M.F. Scheier. 1982. Self-awareness and the self-regulation of behavior. In Aspects of consciousness: Vol 3. Awareness and self-awareness, ed. G. Underwood, 235–266. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Baumeister, R.F., E. Bratslavsky, M. Muraven, and D.M. Tice. 1998. Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74: 1252–1265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Muraven, M., D.M. Tice, and R.F. Baumeister. 1998. Self-control as limited resource: Regulatory depletion patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74: 774–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    DeWall, C.N., R.F. Baumeister, T.F. Stillman, and M.T. Gailliot. 2007. Violence restrained: Effects of self-regulation and its depletion on aggression. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43: 62–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Stucke, T.S., and R.F. Baumeister. 2006. Ego depletion and aggressive behavior: Is the inhibition of aggression a limited resource? European Journal of Social Psychology 36: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Vohs, K.D., and R.J. Faber. 2007. Spent resources: Self-regulatory resource availability affects impulse buying. Journal of Consumer Research 33: 537–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wheeler, S.C., P. Briñol, and A.D. Hermann. 2007. Resistance to persuasion as self-regulation: Ego-depletion and its effects on attitude changes processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43: 150–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Vohs, K.D., and T.F. Heatherton. 2000. Self-regulatory failure: A resource-depletion approach. Psychological Science 11: 249–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Muraven, M., R.L. Collins, S. Shiffman, and J.A. Paty. 2005. Daily fluctuations in self-control demands and alcohol intake. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 19: 140–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ostafin, B.D., G.A. Marlatt, and A.G. Greenwald. 2008. Drinking without thinking: An implicit measure of alcohol motivation predicts failure to control alcohol use. Behavior Research and Therapy 46: 210–219.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Gailliot, M.T., and R.F. Baumeister. 2007a. Self-regulation and sexual restraint: Dispositionally and temporarily poor self-regulatory abilities contribute to failures at restraining sexual behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33: 173–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Gailliot, M.T., and R.F. Baumeister. 2007b. The physiology of willpower: Linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review 11: 303–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Giguere, B., and R.N. Lalonde. 2009. The effects of social identification on individual effort under conditions of identity threat and regulatory depletion. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 12: 195–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Vohs, K.D., R.F. Baumeister, and C. Finkenauer. 2007. The sum of friends’ and lovers’ self-control scores predicts relationship quality. Psychological Science.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Finkel, E.J., and W.K. Campbell. 2001. Self-control and accommodation in close relationships: An interdependence analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81: 263–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Muraven, M., D. Shmueli, and E. Burkley. 2006. Conserving self-control strength. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91: 524–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Vohs, K.D., R.F. Baumeister, B.J. Schmeichel, J.M. Twenge, N.M. Nelson, and D.M. Tice. 2008. Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 94: 883–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pocheptsova, A., O. Amir, R. Dhar, and R.F. Baumeister. 2009. Deciding without resources: Resource depletion and choice in context. Journal of Marketing Research 45: 1–42.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Schmeichel, B.J., K.D. Vohs, and R.F. Baumeister. 2003. Intellectual performance and ego depletion: Role of the self in logical reasoning and other information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85: 33–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Schmeichel, B.J., and R.F. Baumeister. 2007. Which cognitive processes are affected by resource depletion stemming from prior self-control? Unpublished manuscrupt, Texas A&M University.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Vohs, K.D., and R.F. Baumeister. 2009. Willpower and initiative: Depleted resources foster passivity and reduce active responding. Manuscript in preparation, Florida State University.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Gollwitzer, P.M. 1999. Implementation intentions. American Psychologist 54: 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Webb, T.L., and P. Sheeran. 2003. Can implementation intentions help to overcome ego-depletion? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39: 279–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Dunbar, R.I.M. 1998. The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology 6: 178–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Gaillot, M.T., R.F. Baumeister, N.C. Dewall, J.K. Maner, E.A. Plant, D.M. Tice, L.E. Brewer, and B.J. Schmeichel. 2007. Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92: 325–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Masicampo, E.J., and R.F. Baumeister. 2008. Toward a physiology of dual-process reasoning and judgment: Lemonade, willpower, and expensive rule-based analysis. Psychological Science 19: 255–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Huber, J., J.W. Payne, and C. Pluto. 1982. Adding asymmetrically dominated alternatives: Violations of regularity and the similarity hypothesis. The Journal of Consumer Research 9: 90–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Cox, S.P. 2000. Leader character: A model of personality and moral development. Doctoral dissertation, University of Tulsa.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Duckworth, A.L., and M.E.P. Seligman. 2005. Self-discipline out-does IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science 16: 939–944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Mischel, W., Y. Shoda, and P.K. Peake. 1988. The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54: 687–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Shoda, Y., W. Mischel, and P.K. Peake. 1990. Predicting adolescent cognitive and self regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology 26: 978–986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Smith, S., and R.F. Baumeister. 2006. Trait self-control, SAT score, and transcript versus self-reported grade point average. Unpublished manuscript, Florida State University.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Tangney, J.P., R.F. Baumeister, and A.L. Boone. 2004. High self-control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success. Journal of Personality 72: 271–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roy F. Baumeister
    • 1
  • A. William Crescioni
    • 1
  • Jessica L. Alquist
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations