PRESS-NEWS.org - Press Release Distribution
FREE PRESS RELEASES DISTRIBUTION

People attribute free will to mind, not soul

People attribute free will to mind, not soul
2014-05-27
(Press-News.org) PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Across the board, even if they believed in the concept of a soul, people in a new study ascribed free will based on down-to-Earth criteria: Did the actor in question have the capacity to make an intentional and independent choice? The study suggests that while grand metaphysical views of the universe remain common, they have little to do with how people assess each other's behavior.

"I find it relieving to know that whether you believe in a soul or not, or have a religion or not, or an assumption about how the universe works, that has very little bearing on how you act as a member of the social community," said Bertram Malle, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University and senior author of the new study. "In a sense, what unites us across all these assumptions is we see others as intentional beings who can make choices, and we blame them on the basis of that."

Results from a pair of experiments involving hundreds of online volunteers appear online in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

To lead author Andrew Monroe, a former Brown doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher now at Florida State University, the findings also suggest that people have a perception of free will and culpability that is compatible with brain science in that it does not depend on a spiritual underpinning.

"Neuroscience is no threat at all to this concept of choice," he said.

Free will, quantified

To quantify whether people define free will as being metaphysical (as derived from the soul) or psychological (as derived from a mental capacity for independent, intentional choice), Monroe, Malle, and Kyle Dillon of Harvard University conducted two experiments.

In the first trial, 197 demographically diverse Amazon Mechanical Turk volunteers considered the rule-breaking actions of a randomly assigned character or "agent." That cast included a normal human, an "akratic" human with an inability to use his thoughts to control his actions, a cyborg with a human brain in mechanical body, an artificial intelligence in a human body, and an advanced robot.

Participants read about the agent and seven transgressions of varying seriousness and then rated the blame the agent deserved for each. Then the volunteers answered questions about the agent's capacities, such as their ability to choose and to form intentions, and whether they had a soul.

The results showed a clear difference between having a soul and having free will. Volunteers generally said each human agent (normal or akratic) had a soul, but only said the normal human had free will. Meanwhile they resoundingly said the cyborg with a human brain had free will but generally did not believe it to have a soul.

When it came to blame, people judged the normal human and the cyborg (the two with a mind that had the ability to make choices) most harshly. The akratic human (despite having a soul in the estimation of most), and the entirely artificial robot received the least blame.

Statistically, the capacities that most predicted whether volunteers said an agent had free will and should be blamed for wrong actions were the ability to make a choice with intentionality and being judged as free from control of others. Having a soul was a poor predictor of being seen as having free will or meriting blame.

"The thing that seems to be most important, and that people do extremely reliably, is that they care about an agent's capacity for choice-making," Monroe said.

Little role for the soul

The second experiment, conducted with 124 online volunteers who had not done the first one, ran much the same with important differences. In this case the cast of agents explicitly embodied four types covering the range of combinations of soul and choice: Normal humans had a soul and the ability to choose, robots had neither, akratic humans had a soul but no choice, and cyborgs had choice but no soul.

This experiment explicitly asked participants whether they believe in souls: 68 percent said they did, and participants were moderately religious, averaging 2.1 on a 0 to 4 scale.

Again, however, the characteristics that best predicted whether people judged the different agents to have free will or to be worthy of blame were the psychological ones of choice and intentionality. Soul's statistical role in predicting assessment of free will was only 7 percent and its influence in the degree of blame was zero.

In the statistical models, a shared notion of metaphysical and psychological capacities contributed some predictive value, but further analysis determined that it came almost entirely from the robot, who had neither a soul nor the ability to choose and therefore bore no free will or blame by any criteria.

The findings suggest that the concept of a soul, while widely held, is not readily applied in day-to-day situations, Malle said.

It also suggests that people could come to regard non-humans as having free will if they come to believe that those actors — for example, a sufficiently sophisticated robot — have the capacity of independent, intentional choice. Malle recently entered a collaboration studying whether robots can be infused with a sense of right and wrong.

Monroe is now studying the information processing that underlies how people make moral judgments and update those judgments in response to new information.

INFORMATION: The John Templeton Foundation and The Florida State Research Foundation funded the research.

[Attachments] See images for this press release:
People attribute free will to mind, not soul

ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:

HIV can cut and paste in the human genome

2014-05-27
For the first time researchers have succeeded in altering HIV virus particles so that they can simultaneously, as it were, 'cut and paste' in our genome via biological processes. Developed at the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, the technology makes it possible to repair genomes in a new way. It also offers good perspectives for individual treatment of both hereditary diseases and certain viral infections: "Now we can simultaneously cut out the part of the genome that is broken in sick cells, and patch the gap that arises in the genetic information which ...

'Virtual human' shows that stiff arteries can explain the cause of high blood pressure

Virtual human shows that stiff arteries can explain the cause of high blood pressure
2014-05-27
High blood pressure is highly age-related and affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. But doctors can't fully explain the cause of 90 per cent of all cases. A computer model of a "virtual human" suggests that stiff arteries alone are enough to cause high blood pressure. "Our results suggest that arterial stiffness represents a major therapeutic target. This is contrary to existing models, which typically explain high blood pressure in terms of defective kidney function," says Klas Pettersen, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and first author ...

Why does bacon smell so good? (video)

Why does bacon smell so good? (video)
2014-05-27
WASHINGTON, May 27, 2014 — We all know bacon is delicious, but what is it about cooking bacon that makes it smell so tantalizing? In the American Chemical Society's (ACS') latest Reactions video, the team puts its nose into everyone's favorite breakfast food. We collaborated with the Compound Interest blog to break down the science of that sweet smell. The video is available at http://youtu.be/2P_0HGRWgXw Subscribe to the series at Reactions YouTube, and follow us on Twitter @ACSreactions to be the first to see our latest videos. INFORMATION: The American Chemical ...

Scientists map the worst times of day for people allergic to grass pollen

Scientists map the worst times of day for people allergic to grass pollen
2014-05-27
Atishoo! Help, there are flowering grasses around, please stay indoors – while your friends enjoy the nice summer weather! Traditionally, people allergic to grass pollen are advised to be aware of high pollen concentrations during the day, and to reduce their outdoor activities during this period. A new study led by researchers from Aarhus University shows that it is considerably more complicated to avoid grass pollen. Based on a three-year study with intensive measurements at three different locations in Aarhus, they divide the grass pollen season into three periods, ...

Sperm cells are extremely efficient at swimming against a current

2014-05-27
Like salmon traveling upstream to spawn, sperm cells are extremely efficient at swimming against the current, according to research to be published this week. The discovery, to be published in the journal eLife by researchers at MIT and Cambridge University, may help us to understand how some sperm travel such long distances, through difficult terrain, to reach and fertilize an egg. Of the hundreds of millions of sperm cells that begin the journey up the oviducts, only a few hardy travelers will ever reach their destination. Not only do the cells have to swim in the ...

Attack is not always the best defense

Attack is not always the best defense
2014-05-27
Jena (Germany) It is something like the police force of our body: the immune system. It disables intruding pathogens, it dismantles injured tissue and boosts wound healing. In this form of 'self-defense' inflammatory reactions play a decisive role. But sometimes the body's defense mechanism gets out of control and cells or tissues are affected: "Then excessive reactions can occur and illnesses along with them," Prof. Dr. Oliver Werz of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena says. He gives asthma, rheumatism, arteriosclerosis and cancer as examples: "For many of these diseases ...

The secret cargo of mosquitoes

The secret cargo of mosquitoes
2014-05-27
The parasite Dirofilaria repens is a roundworm that primarily attacks the subcutaneous tissue of dogs and causes lumps in the skin, swelling, and itching. Dogs, cats, foxes, wolves and martens can be infected in addition to dogs. "In humans, 16 cases of human dirofilariosis have been recorded since the year 2000, but the dark figure is definitely higher", says the lead author Katja Silbermayr. Humans, however, are so-called dead end hosts; the parasite does not reproduce in humans and therefore poses no major risk. Silbermayr is a veterinarian and performs research on ...

Seeing e-cigarette use encourages young adult tobacco users to light up

Seeing e-cigarette use encourages young adult tobacco users to light up
2014-05-27
VIDEO: "Whether participants were exposed to someone smoking a combustible or an e-cigarette, the urge to smoke a combustible cigarette was just as high in either condition, " King said. "If the... Click here for more information. Seeing people use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) increases the urge to smoke among regular combustible cigarettes users, according to a new study of young adult smokers. This elevated desire is as strong as when observing someone ...

Stanford researchers discover immune system's rules of engagement

2014-05-27
A study led by researchers at Stanford's School of Medicine reveals how T cells, the immune system's foot soldiers, respond to an enormous number of potential health threats. X-ray studies at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, combined with Stanford biological studies and computational analysis, revealed remarkable similarities in the structure of binding sites, which allow a given T cell to recognize many different invaders that provoke an immune response. The research demonstrates a faster, more reliable way to identify large numbers ...

Climate change accelerates hybridization between native and invasive species of trout

2014-05-27
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Scientists have discovered that the rapid spread of hybridization between a native species and an invasive species of trout in the wild is strongly linked to changes in climate. In the study, stream temperature warming over the past several decades and decreases in spring flow over the same time period contributed to the spread of hybridization between native westslope cutthroat trout and introduced rainbow trout – the world's most widely introduced invasive fish species –across the Flathead River system in Montana and British Columbia, Canada. Experts ...

LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:

Scientists model 'true prevalence' of COVID-19 throughout pandemic

New breakthrough to help immune systems in the fight against cancer

Through the thin-film glass, researchers spot a new liquid phase

Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring

Brain's 'memory center' needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights

Safety of second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after first-dose allergic reactions

Changes in disparities in access to care, health after Medicare eligibility

Use of high-risk medications among lonely older adults

65+ and lonely? Don't talk to your doctor about another prescription

Exosome formulation developed to deliver antibodies for choroidal neovascularization therapy

Second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose found safe following allergic reactions to first dose

Plant root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots

Rare inherited variants in previously unsuspected genes may confer significant risk for autism

International experts call for a unified public health response to NAFLD and NASH epidemic

International collaboration of scientists rewrite the rulebook of flowering plant genetics

Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest

Misplaced trust: When trust in science fosters pseudoscience

Two types of blood pressure meds prevent heart events equally, but side effects differ

New statement provides path to include ethnicity, ancestry, race in genomic research

Among effective antihypertensive drugs, less popular choice is slightly safer

Juicy past of favorite Okinawan fruit revealed

Anticipate a resurgence of respiratory viruses in young children

Anxiety, depression, burnout rising as college students prepare to return to campus

Goal-setting and positive parent-child relationships reduce risk of youth vaping

New research identifies cancer types with little survival improvements in adolescents and young adul

Oncotarget: Replication-stress sensitivity in breast cancer cells

Oncotarget: TERT and its binding protein: overexpression of GABPA/B in gliomas

Development of a novel technology to check body temperature with smartphone camera

The mechanics of puncture finally explained

Extreme heat, dry summers main cause of tree death in Colorado's subalpine forests

[Press-News.org] People attribute free will to mind, not soul