Social psychologist Emily Pronin at Princeton University conducted a battery of tests involving “Free Will,” the results of which were recently published. A new Article by InsideScience sports a title about "Free Will," which itself might evoke misled inferences. Reading it, however, reveals that this has no connection to religion. This effect is worsened by the visuals. PhysOrg covered this issue simultaneously, with essentially the same content, and credits their information from InsideScience. Both of the articles use a woman with a crystal ball as the representative image for their content. This is misleading, and completely unnecessary in my opinion.
On to the research!!
"According to her research, we tend to view our own judgment as sound but the judgment of others as irrational; recognize the biases in others but not ourselves; and see ourselves as more individualistic and others as more conformist."
The studies explained were focused on perceived predictability (and available future options or opportunities) of oneself in in contrast to those around them. In essence, the research exposes a trend of subjective egocentric thinking and denial. We color our experiences by the filter of our world view. It's sad to see that our lack of objectivity also colors our perception of the personalities and behavior of those we are in contact with.
To quote, the concluded ramifications of the studies are:
“Essentially, people judge others based on what they see. But they judge themselves based on what they think and feel, a difference that often leads to misunderstandings, disagreements and conflicts”
This I find rather depressing. It's an aspect of human nature that we cannot rightfully be proud of. For the scientific minded, idyllically, objectivity and unwavering logic acts as a mental bedrock. In regard to my personal growth in the past, having been brought up on beliefs I later rejected, I found that conscious effort to stop self-deception in its tracks allowed for a more objective view of the world.
After all, the world is as we see it, but only via the unbiased collective.
The Abstract of the paper, released via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America or PNAS can be viewed here, but I'll quote the abstract:
"Four experiments identify a tendency for people to believe that their own lives are more guided by the tenets of free will than are the lives of their peers. These tenets involve the a priori unpredictability of personal action, the presence of multiple possible paths in a person's future, and the causal power of one's personal desires and intentions in guiding one's actions. In experiment 1, participants viewed their own pasts and futures as less predictable a priori than those of their peers. In experiments 2 and 3, participants thought there were more possible paths (whether good or bad) in their own futures than their peers’ futures. In experiment 4, participants viewed their own future behavior, compared with that of their peers, as uniquely driven by intentions and desires (rather than personality, random features of the situation, or history). Implications for the classic actor–observer bias, for debates about free will, and for perceptions of personal responsibility are discussed."
Pronin, E., & Kugler, M. (2010). People believe they have more free will than others Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1012046108
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