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Development and validation of a measure of free will belief and its alternatives Carey, Jasmine Marie

Abstract

Although the concept has been debated for centuries by philosophers, little is known about lay beliefs concerning free will and its alternatives. We describe the development of FAD-Plus, a 26-item measure of lay beliefs in free will and three closely-related alternatives: scientific determinism, fatalistic determinism, and randomness. Previous measures included only a subset of these variables and/or tended to assume an a priori pattern of relations among these beliefs. Our exploratory factor analyses suggested relatively independent factors; a confirmatory analysis sustained this relative independence. Each of the four subscales (Free Will, Scientific Determinism, Fatalistic determinism, and Randomness) showed acceptable internal consistencies. In addition to establishing the psychometric properties of the FAD-Plus, our two studies suggest that (a) lay beliefs in free will and determinism are relatively independent, (b) believing in free will is distinct from having an internal locus of control, and (c) scientific determinism must be distinguished from fatalistic determinism. Study 1 (N=222) confirmed that beliefs in free will and determinism are unrelated, that is, quite compatible among non-philosophers. In general, free will belief was associated with traditional attitudes such as religiosity and belief in a just world. Controlling for religiosity eliminated associations with conservatism and authoritarianism. In Study 2 (N=161), free will belief showed only a modest correlation (r = +.35) with internal locus of control. In both studies, IQ scores were negatively related to belief in fatalistic determinism. Free will belief was also associated with assignment of more severe punishment. Together, our two studies confirm the notion that lay respondents have no trouble believing in both free will and determinism. Our studies also suggest that the negative effects previously associated with determinism are actually due to its overlap with belief in fatalistic determinism. We conclude that individuals with strong beliefs in free will are morally critical of others as well as themselves.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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