Free will as advanced action control for human social life and culture

Roy F. Baumeister, A. William Crescioni, Jessica L. Alquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Free will can be understood as a novel form of action control that evolved to meet the escalating demands of human social life, including moral action and pursuit of enlightened self-interest in a cultural context. That understanding is conducive to scientific research, which is reviewed here in support of four hypotheses. First, laypersons tend to believe in free will. Second, that belief has behavioral consequences, including increases in socially and culturally desirable acts. Third, laypersons can reliably distinguish free actions from less free ones. Fourth, actions judged as free emerge from a distinctive set of inner processes, all of which share a common psychological and physiological signature. These inner processes include self-control, rational choice, planning, and initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Culture
  • Free will
  • Initiative
  • Morality
  • Rational choice
  • Self-control


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