What is it about?

Do you believe that human actions are determined by forces beyond our control, or that we have the power to choose our own destiny? This question has fascinated philosophers for centuries, but it also has implications for how we understand ourselves and others in society. In this paper, we explore how personality traits and political ideology are related to different types of beliefs in free will and determinism. We conducted three studies with large and diverse samples of people from the United States and found that authoritarianism, a personality trait that reflects a preference for order, conformity, and obedience to authority, was positively associated with both fatalistic determinism (the belief that everything is predetermined by fate or a higher power) and genetic determinism (the belief that human behavior is largely determined by genes). We also found that political conservatism was positively related to fatalistic determinism, but not to genetic determinism. Moreover, we examined how these beliefs were linked to other aspects of personality, such as openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. We found that openness was negatively related to fatalistic determinism, agreeableness was negatively related to genetic determinism, and conscientiousness was positively related to both types of determinism. Our findings suggest that beliefs in free will and determinism are not only philosophical concepts, but also reflect psychological and political orientations.

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Why is it important?

This paper is important because it sheds light on the psychological and social factors that influence how people think about free will and determinism. These beliefs have implications for how people perceive themselves and others, as well as how they behave in various situations. For example, previous research has shown that believing in free will can enhance moral responsibility, creativity, and prosocial behavior, while believing in determinism can reduce guilt, blame, and punishment. Furthermore, our paper contributes to the literature on authoritarianism and personality by showing that authoritarianism is not only a political attitude, but also a worldview that encompasses beliefs about human nature and agency. By understanding how personality and politics shape people's views on free will and determinism, we can better appreciate the diversity and complexity of human thought and behavior.

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This page is a summary of: “Escape from Freedom”: Authoritarianism-related traits, political ideology, personality, and belief in free will/determinism, Journal of Research in Personality, June 2020, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.103957.
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