Research

Free will seems a matter of mind, not soul

Profiles in a study of free will

Online interview subjects were asked about moral choices and culpability on the part of five active agents, from normal human to plain robot. Free will was associated more with the mind (intentionality, capacity for choice) than with the metaphysics of a soul.  Credit: Malle lab/Brown University

A new study tested whether people believe free will arises from a metaphysical basis or mental capacity. Even though most respondents said they believed humans to have souls, they judged free will and assigned blame for transgressions based on pragmatic considerations — such as whether the actor in question had the capacity to make an intentional and independent choice.