Believing in free will makes you feel more authentic and pure, research finds.
Free will is the belief that we have the power to make our own choices and we are not ruled by fate.
Feeling closer to your true self has a number of benefits, including lower depression and anxiety.
A sense of free also helps boost people’s self-esteem and increases their sense of meaning in life.
Dr Elizabeth Seto, the study’s first author, said:
“Whether you agree that we have free will or that we are overpowered by social influence or other forms of determinism, the belief in free will has truly important consequences.”
For the study, almost 300 people were split into two groups.
One group wrote about experiences that reflected free will, while the other wrote about experiences that lacked it.
The results showed that a lack of free will was linked to less self-awareness and even self-alienation.
People who wrote about free will, though, felt more in touch with themselves.
Dr Seto said:
“Our findings suggest that part of being who you are is experiencing a sense of agency and feeling like you are in control over the actions and outcomes in your life.
If people are able to experience these feelings, they can become closer to their true or core self.”
In a subsequence study, people whose sense of free will was boosted, reported feeling more authentic about making a donation to charity.
Dr Seto said:
“When we experience or have low belief in free will and feel ‘out of touch’ with who we are, we may behave without a sense of morality.
This is particularly important if we have a goal to improve the quality of life for individuals and the society at large.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Seto & Hicks, 2016).