Discuss free will vs determinism in psychology (25)

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Discuss free will vs determinism in psychology (25)

The debate surrounding free will and determinism is one that has occupied psychologists and philosophers for centuries. Those who believe in determinism believe that all behaviour is determined by external and internal forces acting on the person. An example of an external force would be parents rewarding certain type of behaviour, therefore further encouraging it, whilst an internal force would be that of hormones. Those who believe in free will believe matters are slightly more complex. They agree that external and internal factors do exist but that people have free will to choose their behaviour. The argument of freewill and determinism can be summed up by the questions “could a person’s behaviour have been different in a certain situation if they willed it?” Those who believe in determinism would argue no whilst those who believe in free will would say yes.

Determinism is supported more in psychology than free will. Behaviourists are strongly determinists. Determinists claim that each action is caused by a cause and human action is no exception. But the simple reply to this point is that people do make decisions. They are not bound to certain pathways in life. (They can choose whether they want to write… another essay! or just say that they ‘forgot’ and not write it). However Skinner argued that all behaviour is determined by environmental events and that humans tend to repeat behaviours that are rewarded. Skinner stated that free will is simply an illusion. This idea has come from individualist societies and is only present in these society’s.

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Non supporting evidence towards Skinner’s ‘illusion to free will’ came from Dennett. He pointed out a flaw in Skinner's approach. If people’s actions are solely determined by the external rewards and punishments then peoples behaviours would be constantly changing to conform to the rewards and punishments of our society. Dennett stated that people have long-term goals and strive to meet these rather than following others. Skinner focused exclusively on the belief that our behaviour is determined by the external environment and ignored behaviours such as anticipating future events and evaluating consequences of our behaviour.

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