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Worldview Implications of Believing in Free Will and/or Determinism: Politics, Morality, and Punitiveness


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Delroy L. Paulhus, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. Email:



We used the FAD-Plus to investigate the association of free will belief (FWB) with political orientation, moral attitudes, and punitiveness. Other goals included (a) confirming the independence of believing in free will and determinism and (b) contrasting scientific determinism with fatalistic determinism.


Three studies were conducted via online questionnaires. Studies 1 and 3 recruited undergraduate students: Study 1, N = 220, Mage = 20.96; Study 3, N = 161, Mage = 20.2. Study 2 participants were recruited from a broader community sample: N = 253, Mage = 34.29.


Studies 1 and 2 found that FWB is associated with traditional conservative attitudes, including authoritarianism, religiosity, and belief in a just world. Study 2 replicated this pattern but narrowed the religiosity link to the intrinsic style. In Study 3, FWB was associated with binding moral foundations and retributive punishment of hypothetical criminals.


Belief in free will is associated with a conservative worldview, including such facets as authoritarianism, religiosity, punitiveness, and moralistic standards for judging self and others. The common element appears to be a strong sense of personal responsibility. Evidence for distinct correlates of scientific and fatalistic determinism reinforces the need for treating them separately.