Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions.

Ent, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2014). Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions. Consciousness and Cognition, 27, 147-154.


The present research suggests that people's bodily states affect their beliefs about free will. People with epilepsy and people with panic disorder, which are disorders characterized by a lack of control over one's body, reported less belief in free will compared to people without such disorders (Study 1). The more intensely people felt sexual desire, physical tiredness, and the urge to urinate, the less they believed in free will (Study 2). Among non-dieters, the more intensely they felt hunger, the less they believed in free will. However, dieters showed a trend in the opposite direction (Study 3).


A growing body of literature suggests that people’s bodily states and sensations affect how they process information (Niedenthal, Barsalou, Winkielman, Krauth-Gruber, & Ric, 2005). To date, much of the research on this topic has focused on how bodily cues activate specific responses to specific stimuli. For example, many studies have demonstrated that making approach versus avoidance arm movements can affect people’s judgments of a target stimulus (e.g., Cacioppo, Priester, & Berntson, 1993; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002). Taking that work a bold and meaningful step further, recent work has suggested
that bodily states and sensations may also affect people’s broad, abstract views about the social world. Specifically, having a proclivity toward feeling physically disgusted has been linked to political conservatism (Inbar, Pizarro, & Bloom, 2009; Inbar, Pizarro, Iyer, & Haidt, 2011; Terrizzi, Shook, & Ventis, 2010). In the present research, we tested the hypothesis that bodily states are related to a different type of broad, abstract view: belief in free will.

Belief in free will has important behavioral consequences. People’s aggression, dishonesty, helpfulness, job performance, and conformity have all been found to be related to their beliefs about free will (Alquist & Baumeister, 2010; Baumeister, Masicampo, & DeWall, 2009; Stillman, Baumeister, & Mele, 2011; Vohs & Schooler, 2008). Therefore, the factors that shape people’s free will beliefs may have far-reaching effects. However, research about the factors that affect free will beliefs is scarce.

The entire article here, behind a paywall.