Determined to conform: Disbelief in free will increases conformity

Jessica L. Alquist, Sarah E. Ainsworth, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

Does disbelief in free will reduce people's willingness to exert the effort needed for autonomous thought and action rather than simply conforming to group norms? Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be associated with greater conformity than a belief in free will. In Study 1 (correlational), participants who expressed a greater belief in free will reported that they were less likely to conform in a variety of situations than participants who expressed greater disbelief in free will. In Study 2 (experimental), participants who were induced to disbelieve in free will conformed significantly more to the opinions of ostensible other participants when judging paintings than participants in free will and control conditions. In Study 3 (experimental), participants who were induced to disbelieve in free will conformed significantly more to experimenter-provided examples than participants in a meaning-threat control condition, as well as more than those encouraged to believe in free will. These findings suggest that belief in free will contributes to autonomous action and resisting temptations and pressures to conform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Conformity
  • Free will
  • Social influence

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