Implications of free will beliefs for basic theory and societal benefit: Critique and implications for social psychology


Andrew J. Vonasch, Florida State University, Department of Psychology, 1107 W. Call Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4301, USA (e-mail:


Greater belief in free will is associated with greater empathy towards the working poor, support for social mobility, greater desire for socio-economic equality, and less belief that poor people are fated to live in poverty. We found no sign that belief in free will led to prejudice or discrimination against poor people or undercut justice. These findings from an online survey flatly contradict the claims made by James Miles (2013). Belief in a just world did produce many of the patterns Miles attributed to belief in free will. We also question the reasoning and the strength of the purported evidence in his article, and we recommend that future writers on the topic should cultivate cautious, open-minded consideration of competing views. Miles’ article is a useful reminder that to some writers, the topic of free will elicits strong emotional reactions.