Questioning the free will comprehension question.

In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone (eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society. pp. 2440--2445 (2010)
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Understanding the folk notion of free will and moral responsibility is important for a host of applied and theoretical issues in psychology, philosophy, and ethics. The bulk of experimental research has focused on folk intuitions concerning determinism's relation to free will and moral responsibility. However, determinism is a difficult term for many folk to understand. Accordingly researchers often use comprehension questions to identify and exclude large proportions of participants who seem to struggle with relevant concepts. Here, we document some of the cognitive mechanisms involved in folk judgments related to comprehension of determinism, and its relations to free will and moral responsibility. Results provide prescriptions for experimental designs that can increase comprehension, potentially decreasing sampling biases. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.

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Adam Feltz
Michigan Technological University


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