| Free Will Psychology: Is a Belief in Free
Will Associated with Job Performance?
One important issue in philosophy is free will versus determinism. Do we control our behavior, or is our behavior determined by the environment? Is every behavior a reflection of a conscious choice, or are there behaviors that are not under our control? These are important questions related to the free will vs. determinism debate.
The qustion of free will vs. determinism is not an issue in psychology. This seems to be true because there may not be a scientific answer to the question.
However, how a belief in free will is related to other variables is a relevant question in psychology. One of the relevant questions concerns whether a belief in free will is associated with job performance.
In their second study, Stillman et al. (2010) investigated the relationship between belief in free will and job peformance. The job performance of employees was rated by a supervisior. In their second study, they found statistically significant positive correlations between the belief in free will and four of the five dimensions of job performance. Also, they found a statistically significant positive correlation between a composite measure of job performance (based on summing the ratings for the five dimensions) and belief in free will. In other words, greater belief in free will was associated with greater overall job performance. (1)
It stands to reason that people who have a higher belief in free will are likely to make a greater effort than people who have a lower belief in free will. If a person thinks that he or she can control his or her own behavior, then it seems that he or she would be more motivated to make an effort. In their second study, they found that a greater belief in free will was associated with making greater effort. The effort was judged by the supervisor in their second study.
It is possible that a belief in free will can lead to greater job performance. However, we cannot make causal conclusions from correlational findings. It is possible that there are other explanation for the correlational findings, and that a belief in free will is not causally related to job performance.
1. See their artice for information on other findings.
Stillman, T. F., Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Lambert, N.
M., Fincham, F. D., & Brewer, L. E. (2010). Personal
philosophy and personal achievement: Belief in free will
predicts better job performance. Social Psychological and
Personality Science, 1, 43-50.