Need to Pee? There Goes Your Belief in Free Will

Do you believe in free will and self-determination? Actually, answer this question first: do you need to pee?

A study published in Consciousness and Cognition has found that people’s belief in free will is, in part, informed by their physical circumstances.

In one survey, they compared the belief in free will amongst twenty-three people with panic disorders, sixteen people with epilepsy, and thirty-five healthy controls. Those with epilepsy and panic disorders, in general, tended to believe that people don’t have so much free will.

In a second online study, eighty-one people were asked to rate their current need to urinate, have sex, tiredness, or hunger, and then describe their belief in free will. Those feeling any of the first three needs tended to report lesser belief in the idea of free will—but not hungry people.

The researchers went back one more time to explain hunger. They asked 112 people about their conception of free will, their hunger, and whether or not they were dieting. When they excluded the dieters, those feeling hungry also reported less belief in free will. Dieters, it turns out, consider their hunger as evidence of their will to lose weight.

According to the researchers, “Others have assumed that beliefs about free will are shaped by religious and political doctrines and logical reasoning, yet such beliefs are at least influenced by bodily cues as seemingly innocuous as a full bladder or an unfulfilled desire for sex.”

So, the next time you get to feeling high-minded, remember: you’re one full bladder away from Hobbesian debasement.

Photo courtesy of Yumeto Yamazaki

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