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What is Free Will?

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What is free will? To have free will we must be able to choose our behaviour- it is not determined by either the environment or our genetic inheritance or some form of soft determinism such as the Cognitive Perspective in Psychology would argue. Behaviourist argue that we do NOT have free will because our behaviour is determined by the environment, current or previous environmental experiences which will determine how we behave- we do not have a choice. To illustrate the behaviourist ideas we can consider the work or studies of firstly Pavlov. Pavlov showed how reflex behaviours could be conditioned by various neutral stimuli to become associated with an unconditioned stimulus to evoke a conditioned response such as salivation. ...read more.


He believed our behaviour was determined by the application by reinforcers and the pattern or schedule of reinforcement used. Tolman's work contradicts some of Skinner's ideas. Tolman found that rats demonstrated latent learning i.e. They were able to "remember" which arm of the maze had food and which had water (by a cognitive map perhaps) and then when they were hungry they went directly to the food arm of the maze without the trial and error of Skinner. This illustrates the more cognitive argument to free will that it is a complex interaction between the environment and biology with some individual processing. Future work within the Learning Perspective becomes less determinist and more open to the idea of free will. ...read more.


Behaviour partly creates the environment, and the resultant environment, in turn, influences the behaviour". The view of soft determinism suggests that determinism is not an all-or -nothing situation, but must be related to the circumstances in which behaviour occurred. Furthermore, most people feel that they possess free will, in the sense that they can freely choose from a number of options. Most people also have feelings of personal responsibility, presumably because they feel that they are in at least partial control of their behaviour. Thus the concept of free will is not very applicable to the early behaviourist who felt that behaviour was determined by the environment, however, it is very applicable to Bandura's work. Bandura would agree that individuals are not passive robots but actively construct their environment. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a very nicely concise answer which covers a good level of detail with regard what free will is and it's role in human behaviour. One may argue that the candidate should first give a much more expansive description ...

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Response to the question

This is a very nicely concise answer which covers a good level of detail with regard what free will is and it's role in human behaviour. One may argue that the candidate should first give a much more expansive description of what free will is, and it's role in influencing behaviour, maybe referencing the work of prolific free will-supporting psychologists like Rogers or Maslow, mainly because, after the introduction, this answer dives into an explanation more of determinism and soft determinism rather than free will. There is some effort to draw comparisons between the practises of free will and how free will is studied but only in conjunction with a more profound description about early behaviourist theories of classical and operant conditioning, and then later behaviourist theories like Bandura's Social Learning Theory. As a result, the use of studies is not appropriate because studies like Rogers' interviews of "Gloria" and Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" would've been more appropriate feature, with perhaps a hard determinist study like Watson & Raynor to contrast, rather than have most of the analysis weighted on free will's counter-argument.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis shown here is very good were the question orientated around hard and soft determinism, as the candidate form a very good description of the features of this argument - there is also ample description of the features of free will but these are more sporadic, and dotted about the main body of the essay, which revolves around the psychological studies the candidate uses in order to validate the existence of the determinism argument in influencing human behaviour. This latter feature about the essay is where the candidate make their mistake, because the question requires more focus on free will than determinism. It is always important to consider all parts of the free will-determinism spectrum when analysing human behaviour, but more information must be represented to enforce the idea of free will rather than determinism in this question. I recommend concerning yourself with the Humanistic Approach to psychology - arguably the most supportive of free will, and will aid you in writing more informed answers about free will by itself, rather than in relation to a bias on determinism.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is consistently good throughout. Though not spectacularly interesting in it's choice of words and sentence syntax, that candidate's ideas about free will and determinism are very clear. This is due to an evident adherence to the rules of Standard English (grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all accurate). The candidate also succeeds form a psychology perspective, using important key words and terminology where appropriate to help fortify the answer and show the examiner they are confident to discuss psychology using the language of the professionals.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 05/08/2012

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