Over the last decades research in neuroscience and psychology has fuelled heated scientific, philosophical, and public debate about the existence of free will. Several scientists have claimed that our brain reaches a decision about our actions well before we are consciously aware of this. Although we experience ourselves as free agents, this is said to be illusionary insofar it is established after the fact, that is, after a choice has been made by our brain. These results are taken to show that we cannot be the real cause of our actions and that there is something wrong with our concepts of free will and moral responsibility. Obviously, these claims have an impact on social and professional practices in which the notions of free will and responsibility play a constitutive role, e.g., the legal system and psychiatry. They also influence people’s behaviour generally. Research has shown for example that people are more likely to cheat when they are prompted to think that they are not in charge of their own actions.
This project will be executed by PhD-student Lieke Asma.