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Conscious Cogn. 2012 Sep;21(3):1482-90. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.04.004. Epub 2012 May 9.

Reducing self-control by weakening belief in free will.

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LNC, University of Provence, CNRS, Marseille, France.


Believing in free will may arise from a biological need for control. People induced to disbelieve in free will show impulsive and antisocial tendencies, suggesting a reduction of the willingness to exert self-control. We investigated whether undermining free will affects two aspects of self-control: intentional inhibition and perceived self-control. We exposed participants either to anti-free will or to neutral messages. The two groups (no-free will and control) then performed a task that required self-control to inhibit a prepotent response. No-free will participants showed less intentional inhibitions than controls, suggesting a reduction of self-control. We assessed perceived self-control by asking participants whether the response resulted from a deliberate intention or from an impulsive reaction. Perceived self-control was lower in the no-free will group than in control group. Our findings show that undermining free will can degrade self-control and provide insights into how disbelieving in free will leads to antisocial tendencies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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