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Discuss the Free will vs. Determinism debate

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Free will vs. Determinism The free will vs. determinism debate has been argued by psychologists almost as long as the subject of psychology itself has been around. The deterministic approach explains behaviour as a direct result of 2 types of determinism; external/environmental stimuli (i.e. life events) and internal stimuli (i.e. genes). These stimuli create behaviour that is totally predictable which occurs in a regular, orderly manner - implying that people are just passively respondents. In contrast to this, the free will approach states that humans are free to choose their own behaviour and can therefore, break away from their biological programming and predispositions. However, it seems ignorant to believe fully in free will and there are no approaches which follow the belief of free will fully, thus, a multi-dimensional approach, of 'soft determinism', was devised. This is the belief that free will and determinism are coexisting factors of behaviour: it indicates that there are constraints within any situation, yet there are also a number of choices, which gives the individual a sense of free will. The Behavioural approach is one of the many approaches that adopt a strict deterministic view of human behaviour. This is an environmentally deterministic approach which states that our behaviour is moulded, directly or indirectly, as a result of reinforcement provided by the environment; thus 'conditions' us to behave in a specific and predictable way. ...read more.


They explain dreams as a result of neuro-biochemical processes in the brain such as a random firing of neurons. This is a weak theory as it does not explain complex dreams or dreams that reoccur. This is evidence that genes cannot solely explain behaviour, so strict determinism cannot be completely valid approach. The idea of lucid dreaming suggests that dreams are controlled by the dreamer and could be seen as evidence of free will. The Cognitive approach is one of a few approaches which sit on the fence. This explains behaviour as a result of perception, language and memory, a distorted view of these will lead to abnormal or maladaptive behaviours. This is determinist as it states that past memories will shape our behaviour, but also promotes free will as the clinical approaches aim to eradicate faulty thinking and create rational thinking. This is attained through changing a person's schema. The word 'schema' was first used by Piaget and Anderson devised the 'Schema Theory' which assumes that we all have schemas (a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world) which controls how we behave in certain situations. We have schemas about everything in the world (i.e. stereotypes of races, ages and genders, worldviews etc.), and use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. ...read more.


Also, determinism tends to oversimplify human behaviour, some theories may be relevant to animals but human behaviour is influenced by other factors - including thinking. Chaos theory proposes that even small alterations in initial conditions can result in major changes - the 'butterfly effect'. Free will can be explained within a determinist framework as if free will is a product of conscious thought and decision making and psychologists can explain such processes in terms of brain activity then free will is another aspect of behaviour determined by the brain. Freewill is supported by subjective experiences and the fact that people do make individual decisions and are bound to their desires and inclinations. Yet, despite our subjective sense of free will, this is not proof. This could be an illusion, as Freud and Skinner described, and cannot be tested. Many freewill theories still explain moral thinking and behaviour as being determined by internal/external forces. Both Piaget and Kohlberg suggested that moral development was a result of biological determination. Though there are strong arguments for both sides, there is a lack of evidence to show that either one is solely responsible for human behaviour. Both are necessary for explaining behaviour of humans due to its extreme complexity, therefore a 'soft determinism' approach offered by William James may be more applicable. This allows them to work conjunctively which provides a better comprehension of behaviours. ...read more.

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