Is Belief in Free Will a Cultural Universal?


  • We are most grateful to Arudra Burra, Rachana Kamtekar, and the two anonymous referees for Mind & Language for their comments on this paper.

Hagop Sarkissian, Dept. of Philosophy, City University of New York, Baruch College, One Bernard Baruch Way, New York, NY 10010, USA.


Recent experimental research has revealed surprising patterns in people's intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. One limitation of this research, however, is that it has been conducted exclusively on people from Western cultures. The present paper extends previous research by presenting a cross-cultural study examining intuitions about free will and moral responsibility in subjects from the United States, Hong Kong, India and Colombia. The results revealed a striking degree of cross-cultural convergence. In all four cultural groups, the majority of participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism.