Do I Have More Free Will Than You Do? An Unexpected Asymmetry in Intuitions About Personal Freedom

Brian D. Earp


The present research explores the relationship between moral evaluations and intuitions about the causes of human behavior, in particular freedom of the will. Two studies test for a self-serving bias in intuitions about free will. Study 1 explores whether individuals may seek to exculpate themselves from wrongdoing by denying free will, while justifying blame of others by endorsing free will. Study 2 explores whether individuals may justify personal failures by denying free will, while taking credit for personal successes by endorsing free will. In neither study do the data show the predicted differences between conditions. However, an unexpected finding is reported. By pooling the data from both experiments and collapsing across conditions, it is shown that participants give greater endorsement of free will whenever actions are described from a first-person, instead of third-person, perspective—a tentative “I have more free will than you do” effect. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed, as are avenues for further research on this topic.

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