Priming (dis)Belief in Free Will with Illusionism


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AbstractPrevious research underscores the significance of free will belief in influencing a spectrum of socially relevant behaviors. To dissect the causal dynamics underpinning this belief, numerous paradigms have been devised. Yet, these interventions often yield marginal and nonspecific effects in free will belief. This study aims to pioneer a novel approach, employing illusionism-based approach, to manipulate free will belief and examine its downstream effects on social behaviors. In our initial exploration, we utilized an illusionist technique, transcending mere magic tricks, to cultivate or diminish free will belief among participants, aligning them with pro- or anti-free will stances, respectively. This intervention demonstrated a moderate, yet targeted, impact on the belief in free will, distinctively affecting it without spilling over to associated beliefs like determinism and dualism. A subsequent experiment sought to validate these effects and probe their potential influence on social bias, particularly the fundamental attribution error. Results echoed the manipulation's consistent sway on free will belief, albeit without extending to influence the fundamental attribution error. Collectively, our findings illuminate the capacity of illusionism to finely tune free will belief, albeit revealing scant evidence for a direct conduit from such beliefs to social behavior patterns.
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