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Free will is the idea that we are self-determining

The notion of free will suggests human beings are free to choose their thoughts and actions

There are biological and environmental influences on behaviour - but free will imply we can reject them

A view of the humanistic approach


What is hard determinism known as?



What is hard determinism?

All human action has a cause 

it should be possible to identify these causes

This is compatible with aims of science which assume that which we do is indicted by internal or external forces that cannot control


What is soft determinism?

All human action has a cause but people has conscious mental control over behaviour. James (1890) thought scientists should explain the dterminising forces acting upon us, but we still have freedom to make these choices)


What is the features of biological approach?

  • Physiological processes are not under conscious control (e.g influence of automic nervous sytem on anxiety)
  • Genetic factors may determine many behaviours and characteristic (e.g mental disorders)
  • Hormones may determine behaviour (e.g role of testoerone in aggressive behaviour)


What is biological determinism?

Control from physiological genetic and hormonal processes


What is environmental determinism?

suggests that our behaviour is determined by previous experience, through classical and operant conditioning


Example of environmental determinism

  • Behavourist approach popularised the idea of this - Skinner said 'free will is an illusion' and argued all behaviour as a result of condition
  • Experience of 'choice' is su total of reinforcement contingencies that have acted upon us throughout our lives
  • We might think we are acting independently but our behaviour is shaped by our environment events and agent of socialisation (parent, teacher , instituions etc)


Science seek to find casual explanations where one thing is determined by another

  • A basical principle of science is that every event has a cause and explained with general laws. Knowedlege allow scientists to predict with control events
  • Lab experiment lets research stimulate the conditions of the test tube and remove all the extraneous variables to demonstrate a causal effect


Outline a deterministic viewpoint

  • Proposing the idea of not having free will describes behaviour not being in control under the indvidual
  • Behaviour is determined by internal and external focus - our biology and environment
  • It is automatic and not in our control


What do psychologists who take the free will approach suggest?

Humans can make free choices and appears to be complete opposite of the determinstic approach

Free will suggest determinism will remove freedom and dignity and devalues human behaviour 

These general laws of behaviour of human

Does not deny there is some sort of biological influence but able to deny it 


Outline a determinstic explanation e,g agression reduces individual responsibiility

Agression as they are not responsible for their behaviour a due to upbringing or hormone of testerone


What does the free will and determinism debate focus on?

The free will and determinism debate focuses on whether behaviour is pre-determined or whether we have a choice over our behaviour..


Example of biological determinism

For example, low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin has been linked with depression.


What is psychic determinism?

Suggests that our behaviour is determined by early experiences and unconscious drives


What is exmaple of psychic determinism

For example, within the psychodynamic approach, Freud emphasised the role of the unconscious and suggested that a fixation in one of the stages can determine adult behaviour.


What are the five types of determinism?

  1. Hard
  2. Soft
  3. Psychic
  4. Envirnomental
  5. Biological


Why is human behaviour such a problem for psychologists taking a determinist view?


A strength of determinism is that it is consistent with the aims of science

  • The notion that human behaviour is orderly and obey laws places psychology on equal footing with more published science increasing credibility
  • Another strength is that the prediction and control of human behaviour led to the development of treatment and therpaies (e.g drug treatments to manage shizophrenia
  • The experience of schizophrenia (loss of control over thoughts and behaviour ) suggests some behaviour are determined (no one chooses to have shizophrenia)


A second limitation hard determinism is not consistent with legal system

  1. Offenders are more morally accountable for their actions in law. Only in extreme circumstances the juries are instructed to act with leniency (e.g Law of Diminished Responsilibty applied in cases of mental illness)
  2. Another limitation is that determinism with approach of scientific enquiry is not galsifiable and is based on idea that causes of behaviour exist even when not found.
  3. As a basic principle this is impossible to disprove it suggests determinsitic approach may not be scientific as it seems


A strength of free will we often make choices in everday life

  • Everday experience gives impression we are constantly making choices on any day. This gives face validity to the idea of free will (e.g makes sense)
  • Another strength is if we do not have free will that we think we do have a positive impact on mind and behaviour
  • Roberts et al showed that adoescents have a strong belief of fatalism (that their lives  were decided by events outside of their control) more risk of developing depression


A limiitation is that free will is not supported by neurological evidence

  • Studies of decision making have revealed obedience againdt free will
  • Libet and Soon found that brain activity related t decision to press button with left or right hand occurs to 10 seconds before participant report being consciously aware of making decision
  • This shows even our basic explanations of free will decided and determined by our brain before we are aware of them.