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11/18/2014

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Ha! That would really make free will HANG ON A THREAD (or a STREAM).

VBW is always a lot of fun and interesting. Thanks for doing such a great job, Tamler.

Thanks John! Added bonus: semi-compatibilism comes up on this one... (not a discussion of it but just an acknowledgment that we can have different positions on the compatibility question about free will and about responsibility.

Tamler,

As you mention, I am not a fan of the Rakos et al. FWD scale used by Baumeister and his collaborators. I am also not especially fond of the scale they used in their previous research--namely, Paulhus's FAD+. We discuss the problems with both of these scales in our paper about our own scale--namely, FWI. You can see more here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810014000075

For now, here is what we have to say specifically about the Rakos FWD scale:

"Unfortunately, the same criticism applies to a more recently developed and commonly used psychometric tool for measuring free will beliefs: the Free Will and Determinism Scale (Rakos, et al., 2008, used in, e.g., Filevich, et al., 2013; Rigoni, Kuhn, Sartori, & Brass, 2011; Rigoni, et al., 2012). In the development of their scale, Rakos and colleagues acknowledged that they followed in Viney’s incompatibilist footsteps by conceptualizing free will and determinism “as the opposing poles of an ‘amount of agency’ continuum” (p. 25). Moreover, there are additional worries about the scale designed by Rakos and colleagues. For instance, the validation round involved less than 100 participants, and thus was likely underpowered (Kline, 2011). Moreover, each of the items in their free will subscale contains the term “free will”—which may artificially inflate how well the free will items appear to hang together (Chen & Thisen, 1997). Finally, it is problematic that there is so much overlap between the items in the various subscales. For instance, why is “My decisions are influenced by a higher power” included within the Personal Limitations subscale rather than the Higher Power Control subscale? But for present purposes, the main shortcoming of the scale designed by Rakos and colleagues is the aforementioned worry that it, too, is predicated on incompatibilism."

Given that Baumeister has been privy to our scale since we first started working on it--since he saw our presentations about the scale at two BQFW meetings--it is puzzling that he continues to use scales that are (arguably) more problematic than FWI. That our scale allows for more fine-grained analyses of other important topics related to free will (such as dualism, responsibility, punishment, and the relationship between free will, the soul, responsibility, and science) makes Baumeister's decisions all the more puzzling. It would be nice to know whether their behavioral findings hold up using different scales--FWD, FAD+, FWI, etc.

It's funny though, when you look at the "personal will" questions though, they seem to be predicated on a compatibilist conception of free will. (Aside from being part of something called the "free will and determinism" scale.) The higher power question is one example. Obviously you can believe in determinism and still think that your decisions aren't influenced by a higher power (or "part of a larger plan" etc.) So I'm surprised by your criticism--I'll check out the paper though. We should have you on for a segment to talk about this!

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