Automatic or controlled: How does disbelief in free will influence cognitive functioning?

Maayan Katzir, Oliver Genschow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Most people believe in free will. Past research has indicated that reducing this belief has numerous downstream consequences including everyday outcomes as well as neural and cognitive correlates associated with a reduction of self-control. However, the exact mechanisms through which a reduction in free will belief affects self-control are still a matter of investigation. In the present registered report, we used a task switching paradigm to examine whether reducing belief in free will makes people less controlled or whether it enhances their reliance on automatic impulses. Using Bayesian sequential analysis, we failed to conceptually replicate the previous link between free will belief and cognitive control. Our registered report plan mostly accumulated substantial evidence supporting the null hypothesis. That is, diminished belief in free will does neither impact control nor automaticity. Theoretical implications of this finding are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1142
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Mattan Ben Shachar for reviewing the ‘data preparation and exclusion’ R code. They also thank Neta Raz and Mareike Westfal.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. British Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The British Psychological Society.


  • automaticity
  • cognitive control
  • free will belief
  • self-control


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