As many of us might be aware, previous research has shown that having people read anti-free will text tends to lead to more cheating (Vohs and Schooler, 2008) and more aggression and less helping (Baumeister, Masicampo, and DeWall, 2009).
These findings have garnered a lot of attention in the scientific community and in the media. These findings have also led to a number of interesting (and sometimes heated!) ethical debates. The primary (ethical) question of interest asks (roughly): If telling people they don't have free will leads to more anti-social behaviors and less pro-social behaviors, do we as academics have an ethical duty not to publicly tell people they don't have free will? Of course, the answer to this question is very complicated and will depend on a number of factors ...
As complicated as answering this question may be, there are clearly some data that could help shed some light on the importance of this question. For example, data that may help answer the following would definitely be helpful: How consistently can these results be replicated? What are the typical effect sizes found in any attempt to replicate? How much do these results generalize to other samples (populations)? How specific are these effects to the DVs, IVs, and methods used in the original studies? In other words, in general, how robust are the findings that telling people they don't have free will leads to bad behaviors?
In an attempt to answer these questions, I am looking to conduct a meta-analysis/review of any related findings. In order to meet this end, I need to know about any unpublished findings that may exist out there, including null results. (I need a good sampling of both what has worked to get effects and what has not worked.)
So, I need your help!
If you know of anyone that has attempted to empirically explore the effects of telling people they don't have free will on behavior, please contact me. If you or your lab has attempted to empirically explore the effects of telling people they don't have free will on behavior, please contact me.
If you are willing to share, I need from you a (brief) description of your methods, including the exact manipulation used, sample size for each condition, means and standard deviations of any and all relevant measurements for each condition, and if applicable a correlation matrix. I am particularly interested in DVs that attempted to measure various aspects of behavior, along with any measurements of beliefs in free will. Also, if you have any methodological concerns in your study, it would be helpful if you noted those, too.
I can be contacted at jsshepa 'at' Emory 'dot' edu, or jason.s.shepard 'at' gmail 'dot' com.
Want to cite this post?
Shepard, J. (2012). The Effects of Altering Beliefs in Free Will: Results Wanted. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on
, from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2012/05/effects-of-altering-beliefs-in-free.html