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Torbet, G. (2012). Shepherd, J. (2012). Free will and consciousness: Experimental studies. Consciousness and Cognition, 21 (2): 915-927.Roskies, A. L. (2012). How does the neuroscience of decision making bear on our understanding of moral responsibility and free will? Current Opinion in Neurobiology. Epub ahead of publication. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2012.05.009. Neuropsychoanalysis, 14(2):249-250.

(2012). Neuropsychoanalysis, 14(2):249-250

Shepherd, J. (2012). Free will and consciousness: Experimental studies. Consciousness and Cognition, 21 (2): 915-927.Roskies, A. L. (2012). How does the neuroscience of decision making bear on our understanding of moral responsibility and free will? Current Opinion in Neurobiology. Epub ahead of publication. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2012.05.009

Review by:
Georgiana Torbet

“I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.”

E. B. White

As neuroscientific discoveries regarding decision-making become more well-understood, the specter of “free will” and its possible conflict with neuroscience rises once more. Two recent pieces of research focus upon the relationship between brain processes, free will, and moral responsibility. Shepherd provides a systematic approach to understanding the public's view on issues of free will with a set of carefully crafted questionnaires that examine which facet of perceived free will people generally find relevant for making moral decisions. The conditions compared were determinism versus indeterminism (i.e., whether the laws of nature are continuous in such a way that all future decisions are predictable), mechanistic versus psychological (i.e., whether descriptions of human behavior which were mechanistic rather than psychological would be threatening to free will), and conscious versus unconscious (i.e., whether judgments of free will were affected by whether the processes described were conscious or unconscious).

One notable finding of this survey was that people generally held that consciousness was an important factor in whether an agent is judged to have acted of his or her own free will. When unconscious processing was invoked, people were much less likely to hold the agent morally responsible for his or her actions.

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