Manipulating Belief in Free Will and Its Downstream Consequences: A Meta-Analysis

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


  • Oliver Genschow
  • Emiel Cracco
  • Jana Schneider
  • John Protzko
  • David Wisniewski
  • Marcel Brass
  • Jonathan W. Schooler

Ever since some scientists and popular media put forward the idea that free will is an illusion, the question has risen what would happen if people stopped believing in free will. Psychological research has investigated this question by testing the consequences of experimentally weakening people’s free will beliefs. The results of these investigations have been mixed, with successful experiments and unsuccessful replications. This raises two fundamental questions: Can free will beliefs be manipulated, and do such manipulations have downstream consequences? In a meta-analysis including 145 experiments (95 unpublished), we show that exposing individuals to anti–free will manipulations decreases belief in free will and increases belief in determinism. However, we could not find evidence for downstream consequences. Our findings have important theoretical implications for research on free will beliefs and contribute to the discussion of whether reducing people’s belief in free will has societal consequences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.

    Research areas

  • belief, cheating, determinism, free will, meta-analysis, morality, punishment, social behavior
  • Business psychology