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.