Philosophers have long debated whether, if determinism is true, we should hold people morally responsible for their actions since in a deterministic universe, people are arguably not the ultimate source of their actions nor could they have done otherwise if initial conditions and the laws of nature are held fixed. To reveal how non-philosophers ordinarily reason about the conditions for free will, we conducted a cross-cultural and cross-linguistic survey (N = 5,268) spanning twenty countries and sixteen languages. Overall, participants tended to ascribe moral responsibility whether the perpetrator lacked sourcehood or alternate possibilities. However, for American, European, and Middle Eastern participants, being the ultimate source of one’s actions promoted perceptions of free will and control as well as ascriptions of blame and punishment. By contrast, being the source of one’s actions was not particularly salient to Asian participants. Finally, across cultures, participants exhibiting greater cognitive reflection were more likely to view free will as incompatible with causal determinism. We discuss these findings in light of documented cultural differences in the tendency toward dispositional versus situational attributions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was made possible through the support of a grant (IH-112) from the Fuller Theological Seminary/Thrive Center, in concert with the John Templeton Foundation, awarded to EM and SS. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fuller Thrive Center or the John Templeton Foundation.
We thank James Andow, Hugo Viciana and the members of the Pittsburgh Empirical Philosophy Lab, particularly Wesley Buckwalter, for feedback on previous versions of this manuscript. Funding. This research was made possible through the support of a grant (IH-112) from the Fuller Theological Seminary/Thrive Center, in concert with the John Templeton Foundation, awarded to EM and SS. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fuller Thrive Center or the John Templeton Foundation.
© Copyright © 2019 Hannikainen, Machery, Rose, Stich, Olivola, Sousa, Cova, Buchtel, Alai, Angelucci, Berniûnas, Chatterjee, Cheon, Cho, Cohnitz, Dranseika, Eraña Lagos, Ghadakpour, Grinberg, Hashimoto, Horowitz, Hristova, Jraissati, Kadreva, Karasawa, Kim, Kim, Lee, Mauro, Mizumoto, Moruzzi, Ornelas, Osimani, Romero, Rosas López, Sangoi, Sereni, Songhorian, Struchiner, Tripodi, Usui, Vázquez del Mercado, Vosgerichian, Zhang and Zhu.
- alternate possibilities
- cognitive style
- free will