Free will

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Free will is the concept that humans have the ability to make their own choices and determine their own fates. It is the belief that humans are free to choose their behavior and that they have the power of volition and agency. In the context of psychology, free will is typically contrasted with determinism, the belief that all events, including human actions, are determined by external factors and are therefore predictable [1] [2].

Connection with rational thought and self-consciousness

The sense of free will can be attributed to the human brain's capacity for rational thoughts and self-consciousness. This level of cognitive complexity allows humans to engage in conscious deliberation, which is a key component of free will. This complex process of conscious deliberation is one of several strategies devised by evolution to execute behavior [3].

Evolutionary basis for free will

From an evolutionary perspective, free will can be seen as a mechanism that enables humans to adapt to various environments, react to social cues, and navigate the complexities of their social surroundings. The ability to make choices, learn from experiences, and exercise self-control has proven to be advantageous for human survival and reproduction, as it allows individuals to pursue various strategies and adapt to changing circumstances. Consequently, the development of free will is thought to have been favored by natural selection.

Contrasting perspectives in psychology

Various schools and perspectives within psychology have differing views on the existence and relevance of free will. Some psychologists argue that free will is an illusion, while others believe that it plays a crucial role in human behavior [4].

  • Behaviorists argue that behavior is determined by environmental influences and conditioning, downplaying the importance of free will in the actions and choices of individuals.
  • Cognitive psychologists focus on the mental processes underlying human behavior, including the role of conscious deliberation in decision-making, which supports the existence of free will.
  • Humanistic psychologists emphasize the importance of self-determination, individual growth, and personal responsibility, which are all closely related to the concept of free will.

Consequences of belief in free will

Belief in free will has important implications for the way individuals approach their lives and how they relate to others. Research suggests that those who hold strong beliefs in free will are more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior, display greater self-control, and assume personal responsibility for their actions [5]. Conversely, disbelief in free will has been linked to increased aggression, reduced moral judgment, and diminished self-control.