Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? (PDF) Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read excerpts that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors) or neutral text. Exposure to the deterministic message increased immoral behavior on a passive cheating task that involved allowing a flawed computer program to reveal answers to mathematical problems that participants should have been solving themselves. Moreover, increased cheating behavior was mediated by decreased belief in free will. In Experiment 2, exposure to deterministic statements led participants to overpay themselves on a cognitive test relative to participants who were exposed to statements endorsing free will as well as participants in numerous control conditions. These findings suggest that the debate over free will has societal, as well as scientific and theoretical, implications.This maps onto the evidence about the effects of believing that ability can be developed through hard work, or is simply inborn.
Through more than three decades of systematic research, [Dweck] has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.