From Jonathan Schooler, a clip:
The results revealed that those presented with the anti-free will message were particularly likely to allow the computer to give them the answer, and this change in behavior was statistically mediated by a decreased belief in free will. In short, discouraging a belief in free will encouraged cheating.
A second study demonstrated a similar point. In this study, participants read statements that expressed either the view that free will does not exist, that it does exist, or that only mentioned ideas unrelated to free will. Later, they participated in a task in which they paid themselves for the number of problems they successfully completed. The results revealed that participants who were exposed to the anti-free will message were more likely to overpay themselves relative to the other conditions. Once again, discouraging a belief in free will encouraged cheating
Since the publication of these findings, a number of studies have documented additional anti-social behaviors resulting from discouraging a belief in free will. For example,Baumeister and colleagues demonstrated that discouraging a belief in free will leads to less helping, more aggression, more mindless conformity, less feeling of guilt, less learning of moral lessons from one’s misdeeds, and less counterfactual thinking about how one might have behaved better.
Other studies have begun to reveal the mechanisms underpinning these behavioral effects. For example, Rigoni and colleagues found that discouraging a belief in free will reduces a specific signal of the brain’s electrical activity (the “readiness potential,” as measured by electroencephalography) known to be associated with the preparation of intentional action. In recent studies conducted in my laboratory, we found that discouraging a belief in free will can reduce people’s belief in their capacity to effectively engage in mental control.
Still other studies have investigated the relationship between people’s pre-existing beliefs about free will and their behavior and attitudes. Research by Stillman and colleagues found that believing in free will is associated with better career prospects and job performance.Recently we found that a belief in free will is positively correlated with a host of positive attributes (including: self-control, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, mindfulness, and ambition) and negatively correlated with several less desirable traits (such as neuroticism and mind-wandering). Of course, we must be cautious in drawing causal inferences from correlational studies. Nevertheless, these findings are consistent with the view, more directly implicated by the experimental studies reviewed earlier, that a belief in free will affords some positive benefits….
Hard determinism’s assumption, as endorsed by Crick, that free will is an illusion, seems the most straightforward way of reconciling the experience of free will with current scientific views of cause and effect. However, there is much we still do not understand about the underpinnings of science, and a complete absence of free will is very difficult to square with the seemingly self-evident experience of personal control.
Compatibilism ’s assumption (alluded to just above) that genuine free will can exist in an entirely deterministic universe is by far the most popular view among modern philosophers. However, it is very difficult for me to gain an intuitive understanding of how our decisions can be in any real sense free if they are the unavoidable consequence of deterministic and potentially random processes.
The Libertarian view that conscious intent somehow transcends the causal chain of physical events most closely resonates with my personal experience, but it is difficult (though perhaps not impossible) to imagine how this might happen.
The lack of a fully satisfying conceptualization of free will leads me to conclude that all three major views are contenders, but I yearn for the formulation of other accounts that could be more readily reconciled with both logic and experience.
Given this quandary, each of us is faced with deciding the matter for ourselves. The conclusion we draw will depend on our personal predispositions and for many be informed by logic and scientific evidence.