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free will and determinism

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Discuss the free will and determinism debate in psychological research. There have been many arguments questioning the existence of free will and determinism. There have also been endless debates regarding if individuals are capable of making their own choices or if behaviour is predetermined and controlled by internal and external forces instead of an individual's will. Free will is the notion that we are able to make choices in our behaviour, allowing us to separate our intentions clearly from events that have been caused by internal or external factors. One argument for the existence of free will is the psychological argument, stating that everyone has a subjective sense of free will, and that many individuals feel that they are able to make their own free choices. However, simply experiencing this sense of free does not necessarily mean that it is true. Skinner claimed that free will was simply an illusion, we think we are free as we do not understand how our behaviour is determined by reinforcement. ...read more.


Determinism is the notion that all behaviour is pre determined therefore predictable. Individuals make no choices in regard to their behaviour and following outcome. One argument for determinism is the predictability of human behaviour. People believe and are aware of their predictability as well as the predictability of others. Mischel's theory of personality on the other hand challenged this claim, as he suggested that people do not have one consistent personality, but it differs according to the situation. Meaning that we are only consistent when exposed to the exact same type of situations. However, Fleeson found in a more recent study that people are highly consistent even when exposed to different environments and situations. Another argument for determinism is that studies on human behaviour can be applied to the real world as seen in Rosenman's and Friedman's research into stress and cardiovascular disease, however studies that were orchestrated in a lab environment may not be applicable to the real world. ...read more.


This could give an example of free will as the process is mostly about thinking. The cognitive approach can also be seen as deterministic through the use of schemas, as schemas create expectations which determine our behaviours and perceptions Humanistic psychologists believe that we are all free to plan our own actions, in turn enabling us to plan our own destinies. Self actualisation is a key concept which was coined by Jahoda's ideal mental health and Maslow's theory on motivation, with it being the top need to be fulfilled. In conclusion the concept of free will is more philosophical then scientific as there is no real way to falsify it. Free will in effect can only exist in a deterministic world, as each of the choices that we make will ultimately have some kind of effect. Our actions would not be able to have an effect if cause and effect relationships did not exist, cause and effect is seen as deterministic as the appropriate cause will lead to the desired effect, therefore determinism is seen to be more likely to explain human behaviour then the concept of free will. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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This is an excellent answer. The candidate demonstrates a clear understanding and appreciation of the task set to them and also shows capabilities of someone who can nicely structure a coherent and effective essay in order to satisfy the question's ...

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Response to the question

This is an excellent answer. The candidate demonstrates a clear understanding and appreciation of the task set to them and also shows capabilities of someone who can nicely structure a coherent and effective essay in order to satisfy the question's demands. There is perhaps a bias to the information about the free will argument in terms of the quantity of words written, but in terms of the points that the questions asks for, both are fairly balanced, with perhaps the determinism side being rushed and explained in lesser detail than the free will argument, thus showing the examiner that the candidate may have run short of time and quickly moved onto the next section. The candidate later goes on to discuss the views of important psychological approaches with regard to the free will and determinism debate in Psychology, each of which are fairly detailed though a more explicit reference to the beliefs about free will and determinism wouldn't go amiss and would nicely round off each of these paragraphs by directly addressing the question.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis, whilst very prescriptive and rigidly structured, is the best way to answer a question like this. Ideally, candidates are looking for an integrated answer that concerns other debates in Psychology along with the debate they are directly addressing (so for instance here, the determinism debate could link very easily with the Scientific Debate and also Quantitative Data). Some candidates find this hard to do, especially under strict time constraints, so my best advice is, if you're pushed for time, go for two simple strengths and two weakness for both free will and determinism (balance is important in a psychological discussion), as this will naturally encourage a fair analysis. I commend the candidates reference to psychological evidence with each strength and limitation given as this helps strengthen an argument by providing the examiner with real factual evidence to support the theories/debates/issues that are being discussed.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is very good. The candidate, from a Psychology perspective, uses a number of appropriately applied terminologies that give the examiner an indication of their ability to construct effective discussion using the language of the professionals. The candidate also uses spelling, grammar and punctuation proficiently, with no errors throughout.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 24/07/2012

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