The Hazards of Claiming to Have Solved the Hard Problem of Free Will

Azim F. Shariff, Jonathan Schooler, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

20 Scopus citations


Although much recent work, both theoretical and empirical, has questioned the existence of conscious free will, this chapter offers two reasons for caution in drawing strong conclusions about the non-existence of free will. First, little existing scientific evidence directly addresses the hard problem of free will, namely, whether it is possible for subjective experience to have a causal impact on action, and therefore, firm conclusions may be premature. Second, claims that science has ruled out the possibility of free will could have negative social consequences. Findings from two experiments demonstrate that people exposed to arguments dismissing free will are more likely to engage in morally lax behavior, such as cheating. Although these results do not imply that scientists should avoid studying the limits of free will, they do suggest a note of caution in broadcasting strong conclusions about the non-existence of free will until fully warranted by the evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAre We Free?
Subtitle of host publicationPsychology and Free Will
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199868605
ISBN (Print)9780195189636
StatePublished - Mar 20 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2008 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Cheating
  • Consciousness
  • Determinism
  • Morality
  • Morally lax

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