Bodily states exert strong influence on belief in free will. This is the conclusion of the recent study carried out by Michael R. Ent and Roy F. Baumeister at Florida State University.
“The extent to which people feel that outcomes – both their own and those of others – are controllable appears to be affected by low-level bodily cues. Others have assumed that beliefs about free will are shaped by religious and political doctrines and logical reasoning, yet such beliefs are at least influenced by bodily cues as seemingly innocuous as a full bladder or an unfulfilled desire for sex,” the researchers say.
More and more studies reveal that our cognition is embodied. Our beliefs and attitudes are strongly affected by bodily factors which seem unimportant at the first glance. For instance, it was shown that disgusting odorant forces people to become more conservative. In fact, not only attitudes, but also behavior can be altered by olfactory cues. For instance, smell of a fish significantly reduces cooperation rates. Ent and Baumeister investigated how beliefs in free will are affected by our bodily states.
“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. 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,” they explain.
Psychologists conjectured that experience of bodily states which are involuntary should reduce belief in free will. Individuals who experienced epilepsy, panic disorders were tested. In addition, study investigated relationship between involuntary bodily states and beliefs in free will among mentally healthy persons.
“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. The more intensely people felt sexual desire, physical tiredness, and the urge to urinate, the less they believed in free will,” the scientists report.
Interesting differences were observed between dieters and non-dieters. When non-diaters felt hungry, their belief in a free will declined. However, belief in free will of diaters increased, when they felt hungry.
Article: Ent M. R. and Baumeister R.F., 2014, Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions, Consciousness and Cognition Volume 27, Pages 147–154, source link.