Automatic or controlled: How does disbelief in free will influence cognitive functioning?

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Most people believe in free will. Past research has indicated that reducing this belief has numerous downstream consequences including everyday outcomes as well as neural and cognitive correlates associated with a reduction of self-control. However, the exact mechanisms through which a reduction in free will belief affects self-control are still a matter of investigation. In the present registered report, we used a task switching paradigm to examine whether reducing belief in free will makes people less controlled or whether it enhances their reliance on automatic impulses. Using Bayesian sequential analysis, we failed to conceptually replicate the previous link between free will belief and cognitive control. Our registered report plan mostly accumulated substantial evidence supporting the null hypothesis. That is, diminished belief in free will does neither impact control nor automaticity. Theoretical implications of this finding are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1121-1142
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 01.11.2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. British Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The British Psychological Society.

    Research areas

  • automaticity, cognitive control, free will belief, self-control
  • Business psychology