Saturday, December 27, 2014

Unbelief in Free Will Increases Bad Behavior

One of my love languages is reading books. One book I received for Christmas is Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will. it's written by Florida State University philosopher Alfred Mele. Mele received a 4.4 million dollar grant to pursue the questions about free will. This book contains his findings. 

Mele believes free will exists, and when people believe they have free will this promotes human welfare. Conversely, when people believe free will does not exist it increases bad behavior. Mele writes:

"There’s evidence that lowering people’s confidence in the existence of free will increases bad behavior. In one study ( Vohs and Schooler 2008 ), people who read passages in which scientists deny that free will exists are more likely to cheat on a subsequent task. In another experiment ( Baumeister et al. 2009 ), college students presented with a series of sentences denying the existence of free will proceeded to behave more aggressively than a control group: they served larger amounts of spicy salsa to people who said they dislike spicy food, despite being told these people had to eat everything on their plates." (Mele, pp. 4-5)

One possible reason for this is that the nonexistence of free will is perceived to remove human responsibility. "If you’re not responsible, you really don’t deserve to be blamed for your unseemly actions. And believing that you can’t be blamed for acting on your dishonest or aggressive urges reduces your incentive to control them. So you cheat or dish out unpleasantness. We can imagine a student who is piling on the hot salsa thinking, “Hey, you can’t blame me for the heartburn you’re about to get; I’m not responsible for what I do.”" (Ib., 5)