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Determinism makes one more likely to be cheater, pumpkin eater

A series of studies by psychologists has found that students exposed to articles undermining the concept of free will were more likely to cheat than their control-group counterparts. It’s not exactly shocking that people feel less responsible for their actions after being told that every choice they make has already been decided by their subconscious, but the actual numbers are eye-opening; in the first test, the group that read the anti-free will article beforehand was 45 percent more likely to cheat. Other variables found to increase cheating were:

  • Sitting in a cramped lecture hall approximately 2 inches away from that smart Asian kid
  • Dollar well-drink specials
  • Secular, atheist agenda/ACLU/George Soros
  • Teacher just not “satisfying your needs” anymore
  • Having a GTF who can’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground
  • Intense dislike of controlled studies

A tip o’ the hat to Megan McArdle, who also just wrote a post mulling over whether or not she would transfer her consciousness into a robot.

  1. Betz says:

    I feel the need to respond to this, because I’m a math major, and also because I just got out of a stats quiz this morning.

    Lets consider two events, the event that the person did in fact cheat (call this event A), and the second event that the person does not believe in free will (Event B). Lets assume that in the experiment, half of the population was in the control group, and the other half in the experimental group. Therefore, the liklihood that the person believes in free will or does not believe in free will (ie, P(B) and P(-B) ) is the same… 50%, or 0.50. Lets also assume that most students at the university are “fairly” honest, and that they will cheat only 15% of the time.

    What is the likelihood that a student will have cheated (ie, P(A) )? To calculate this, the formula goes:
    P(A) = P(B)P(A | B) + P(-B)P(A | -B)
    The ‘P(A | B’ notation means the probability of A given that event B has occured.

    We know P(B) and P(-B) = 0.5. P(A | B) means that the person has a 45% more liklihood to cheat than not to… Since a students liklihood to cheat is only 0.15 anyways, we can get this by adding 45% of 0.15, or multiply 0.15 by 1.45. P(A | -B) is the liklihood that the student will cheat if they do not believe in free will, which is just our initial assumed value of 0.15. Therefore,
    P(A) = (0.5)((.15 * 1.45)) + (0.5)(0.15) = .18375 = 18.4% that a given will cheat, which is not too different from our assumption of 15% to begin with. Therefore, the statistic given is not too great a change.

    If we assume a much higher liklihood to cheat, say along the lines of 50% (So, a student will cheat half of the time), we get:
    P(A) = (0.5)((0.5) * 1.45)) + (0.5)(0.5) = .6125 = 61.3%, compared to our assumption of 50%. This is a little bit different (10%+ is noteworthy), but I don’t know if it is jaw-dropping. If the liklihood were smaller, the difference between the new findings and the assumption would be much closer.

    Therefore, If ever caught or accused of cheating in any other dept. other than the math dept., you probably stand a pretty good chance of convincing the accuser that Determinism made you do it. If that fails, call the accuser “insensitive” to your beliefs and incite an accusation of bigotry, and they should back down. 😉

  2. Vincent says:

    An interesting post that touches on some issues of determinism (or “luck”) vs. free will can be found here.

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