Tuesday, January 21, 2020

UK: Wind farms paid up to £3 million per day to not produce electricity last week, between 25 pct & 80 pct more than the firms, which own giant wind farms in Scotland, would have received had they been producing electricity

Wind farms paid up to £3 million per day to switch off turbines. Edward Malnick. The Telegraph, January 19 2020. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/19/wind-farms-paid-3-million-per-day-switch-turbines

Wind farms were paid up to £3 million per day to switch off their turbines and not produce electricity last week, The Telegraph can disclose.


Energy firms were handed more than £12 million in compensation following a fault with a major power line carrying electricity to England from turbines in Scotland.

The payouts, which will ultimately be added onto consumer bills,were between 25 per cent and 80 per cent more than the firms, which own giant wind farms in Scotland, would have received had they been producing electricity, according to an analysis of official figures.

The payments have prompted questions in Parliament, as one charity warned that consumers were having to fund the consequences of an “excessive” number of onshore wind farms, which can overwhelm the electricity grid.

In December an analysis by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that monitors energy use, revealed that the operators of 86 wind farms in Britain were handed more than £136 million in so-called “constraint payments” last year – a new record.

REF has warned that consumers are left to foot the bill for wind farm operators having to reduce their output as a result of an “excessive” number of turbines in Scotland leaving the electricity grid unable to cope on occasions such as when there are strong winds.

The Western Link, a 530-mile high-voltage cable  running from the west coast of Scotland to the north coast of Wales, was built to help overcome the problem by providing more capacity to transport green energy from onshore wind farms in Scotland, to England and Wales.

But the line, which became fully operational in 2018, has been dogged by difficulties.

In the latest incident, it “tripped” on Jan 10, prompting a spike in the number of wind farms being asked to shut down temporarily because they were producing more energy than could be transported to consumers’ homes.

On the following day  – last Saturday – 50 wind farms were asked to stop producing electricity, and given a total of £2.5 million in compensation to do so. Last Wednesday, the figure was as high as £3.3 million, which was paid out to £3.3 million wind farms by National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) arm. 

The Puritans of the Left are nostalgic of the Prohibition era: The Atlantic wishes that "we treated booze more like we treat cigarettes"

America’s Favorite Poison... Whatever happened to the anti-alcohol movement? Olga Khazan. The Atlantic, January 14, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/01/why-there-no-anti-alcohol-movement/604876/


Americans would be justified in treating alcohol with the same wariness they have toward other drugs. Beyond how it tastes and feels, there’s very little good to say about the health impacts of booze. The idea that a glass or two of red wine a day is healthy is now considered dubious. At best, slight heart-health benefits are associated with moderate drinking, and most health experts say you shouldn’t start drinking for the health benefits if you don’t drink already. As one major study recently put it, “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”

Alcohol’s byproducts wreak havoc on the cells, raising the risk of liver disease, heart failure, dementia, seven types of cancer, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Just this month, researchers reported that the number of alcohol-related deaths in the United States more than doubled in two decades, going up to 73,000 in 2017. As the journalist Stephanie Mencimer wrote in a 2018 Mother Jones article, alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do.

During World War II, the brewing industry recast beer as a “moderate beverage” that was good for soldiers’ morale. One United States Brewers’ Foundation ad from 1944 depicts a soldier writing home to his sweetheart and dreaming of enjoying a glass of beer in his backyard hammock. “By the end of the war, the wine industry, the distilled-spirits industry, and the brewing industry had really defined themselves as part of the American fabric of life,” says Lisa Jacobson, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In later decades, beer companies created the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, now called the Foundation for Alcohol Research, which proceeded to give research grants to scientists, some of whom found health benefits to drinking. More recently, the National Institutes of Health shut down a study on the effects of alcohol after The New York Times reported that it was funded by alcohol companies. (George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told the Times that the foundation through which the funds were channeled is a type of “firewall” that prevents interference from donors.)

Regardless of how much Americans love to drink, the country could be safer and healthier if we treated booze more like we treat cigarettes. The lack of serious discussion about raising alcohol prices or limiting its sale speaks to all the ground Americans have ceded to the “good guys” who have fun. And judging by the health statistics, we’re amusing ourselves to death.

Do all mammals dream?

Do all mammals dream? Paul R. Manger, Jerome M. Siegel. Journal of Comparative Neurology, January 20 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.24860

Abstract: The presence of dreams in human sleep, especially in REM sleep, and the detection of physiologically similar states in mammals has led many to ponder whether animals experience similar sleep mentation. Recent advances in our understanding of the anatomical and physiological correlates of sleep stages, and thus dreaming, allow a better understanding of the possibility of dream mentation in non‐human mammals. Here we explore the potential for dream mentation, in both non‐REM and REM sleep across mammals. If we take a hard‐stance, that dream mentation only occurs during REM sleep, we conclude that it is unlikely that monotremes, cetaceans, and otariid seals while at sea, have the potential to experience dream mentation. Atypical REM sleep in other species, such as African elephants and Arabian oryx, may alter their potential to experience REM dream mentation. Alternatively, evidence that dream mentation occurs during both non‐REM and REM sleep, indicates that all mammals have the potential to experience dream mentation. This non‐REM dream mentation may be different in the species where non‐REM is atypical, such as during unihemispheric sleep in aquatic mammals (cetaceans, sirens and Otariid seals). In both scenarios, the cetaceans are the least likely mammalian group to experience vivid dream mentation due to the morphophysiological independence of their cerebral hemispheres. The application of techniques revealing dream mentation in humans to other mammals, specifically those that exhibit unusual sleep states, may lead to advances in our understanding of the neural underpinnings of dreams and conscious experiences.

Flynn: Nine PISA countries study suggests that there is evidence of substantial decrease in students competencies and literacy in Language (writing) and Math beyond possible economical, and national factors

The Reversal of the Flynn Effect and Its Reflection in the Educational Arena: Data Comparison and Possible Directions for Future Research and Action. Leehu Zysberg. Roczniki Pedagogiczne, Vol 11(47) No 3 (2019). https://ojs.tnkul.pl/index.php/rped/article/view/9586

Abstract: For years indicators of cognitive abilities and academic competencies suggested that humans’ ability to effective cope with their environment is improving (dubbed the Flynn effect). Recent evidence suggests that this trend may be turning. This study explores data obtained from the Program for International Student Assessment for an intentional sample of 9 countries over the last 6 years and suggests that indeed there is evidence of substantial decrease in students competencies and literacy in Language (writing) and Math beyond possible economical, and national factors. The relevance of the results to education and its potential implications are discussed.

Keywords: student competencies, academic skills, Flynn effect, PISA, education


Leaders, educators and researchers in the field of education have addressed
the evidence from both intelligence research and its educational derivative—
academic literacies—suggesting we may be approaching a crisis:
can our abilities be lagging behind what’s required for effectively adapting
to an increasingly complex and challenging world? (Waldrop, 2016; Zysberg,
In this paper, data from the PISA tests, for an intentional sample of 9
OECD countries representing various types of developed countries, indicates
that at the very least, the growth trend suggested by the Flynn effect is not
taking place in the PISA results in general and especially so in the chosen
sample, which did not include developing countries, the decrease (with one
exception) was quite dramatic in both Math and Language literacies.
How can we account for such results and how alarming are they after all?
The most popular voices suggest that this is merely a symptom of a much
broader process: Popular voices suggest that the rise of the so called ‘smart
technology’ and its availability, cultural changes especially regarding the
value of learning and knowledge, the deteriorating quality of education systems
and teachers, and even nutrition and health issues that plague younger
generations compared to their parents (Vyas, 2019). Most authors tend to attribute
the phenomenon to environmental factors: Changes in life style (e.g.:
a more sedentary life style), nutrition (e.g. consuming more industrial
foods), even different games played in childhood (e.g.: action shooter computer
games) were mentioned as possible factors (Dockrill, 2018).
An additional line of this discussion focuses on state level systems, such as
the allocation of resources to education: General government spending on education
and even more specifically, spending on education per student associates
with student achievement (OECD, 2015). While economic factors
have been consistently associated with academic performance in most education
systems (Bakker, Denessen, & Brus-Laeven, 2007), it is interesting to
note that some of the larger decreases in PISA scores were observed in robust
economies (e.g.: S. Korea, the USA). However this line of evidence may still
suggest that social and cultural priorities regarding education may play an important
role here.
Last but not least is looking at the results from a methodological point of
view and what we know of the measurement of human competencies: Longitudinal
measurement of human potentials and performance often show a bias
called regression toward the mean (Rocconi & Ethington, 2009). This may
mean that countries that were either very high or very low on PISA grades
may show decline (for high scores) and ‘improvement’ (for low scores) just
as an artifact of repeated measurements. While this is a compelling option,
we did see similar trends also in countries that are more or less around the
OECD’s mean score (e.g.: USA, Poland).
Do we need to prepare for the end of our civilization as we know it due to
the erosion of basic human competencies? Are we indeed drowning ourselves
in technology and information that we can use less and less effectively?
While it may still be too early to reliably tell (Stillman, 2019), it is becoming
clearer that we face a dramatic change in how human competencies
and literacies express themselves and how we use them. Of existing possible
explanations the ones that stress the roles of culture and effective resource
investment in the competencies and literacy of future generations (Coburn
& Penuel, 2016) is the most likely in light of the nature of the data.
Study Limitations and Directions for future thought
Though the results reflect worldwide trends emerging from various empirical
sources, the data chosen here emphasizes education related settings
and is limited in scope and the level of analysis applied to it. The attempt to
control potential intervening factors through the choice of intentional sample
can only be partially effective, and the patterns should be read with care.
That being said, should future evidence corroborate our interim proposals
and conclusions, policy makers and educators will have to team up to prevent
a dangerous downslide. We live in a world that will require more and
more of our ability to make sense of data and information and make effective
decisions. So far we seem to fail miserably (e.g.: Lockie, 2017; Zysberg,
2018), showing a growing tendency to avoid complex information in decisions,
fail to differentiate bogus facts, facts and opinions, and find it more
and more difficult to represent our perceptions and insights in an effective
manner. Will saving the human race from itself be the next task at hand for
educators? Only the future can tell.

Check also Another nation in which the Flynn effect (IQ in Romania was increasing with approximately 3 IQ points/decade) seems to reverse: The continuous positive outlook is in question as modern generations show signs of IQ “fatigue”
Time and generational changes in cognitive performance in Romania. George Gunnesch-Luca, DragoČ™ Iliescu. Intelligence, Intelligence, Volume 79, March–April 2020, 101430https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2020/01/another-nation-in-which-flynn-effect-iq.html

A recent review implies that people judge their own true selves, or their authentic and fundamental nature, to be no better than that of others, which conflicts with self-enhancement perspectives

A Perspective-Dependent View on the True Self. Yiyue Zhang. MSc Thesis, College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio University, Dec 2019. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ohiou1572777883003345&disposition=inline

Abstract: A recent review implies that people judge their own true selves, or their authentic and fundamental nature, to be no better than that of others (Strohminger, Knobe, & Newman, 2017), which conflicts with self-enhancement perspectives that assume that people tend to view their characteristics and life prospects more favorably than those of others (Sedikides & Alicke, 2012). However, this assumption has not yet been directly assessed. The current five studies explored whether self-enhancement operates in comparative true-self judgments of trait and morally-relevant behaviors. Study 1 to 3 showed that people rated positive and moral traits to be more characteristic of their true selves (vs. an average person’s and a close friend’s true selves). The pattern reversed for negative traits. Using hypothetical and actual moral behaviors, Study 4 and 5 indicated that although moral decisions were generally more characteristic of own versus others’ true-selves, people considered immoral decisions to be more characteristic of other people’s true selves than of their own. Together, the findings demonstrate that true self judgments are subject to self-enhancing tendencies, and therefore, is perspective-dependent.

General Discussion
The goal of this paper was to investigate whether people self-enhance in true self comparisons. The true self refers to a person’s true nature or his or her authentic identity. It assumes the existence of an underlying component of a person’s identity that defines them as an individual (Christy et al., 2019). Specifically, essentialists believe that individuals possess an innate personal essence (i.e. a true self) that explains their shared similarities in psychological and behavioral resemblances across cultural and individual differences. Stemming from this essentialist perspective that individuals have immutable and inherent essences (i.e. true selves), researchers argue that true self evaluations tend to be “perspective-independent,” in which people believe that every individual is morally good deep down (Strohminger et al., 2019). So far, prior research seems to support this conclusion. For example, studies have demonstrated that people tend to attribute their own as well as others’ moral, rather than immoral, behaviors to the true self (Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2016; Newman et al., 2014).However, my findings that self-enhancement influences people’s true-self judgments and comparisons contrast with this commonly held notion, and suggest that the true-self assessment is perspective-dependent. Specifically, in the first two studies, I addressed the question of whether true self comparisons are subject to self-enhancing tendencies at the general personality trait level. By asking the participants to compare their true selves with those of their average peer’s and their close friend’s, I obtained strong evidence of comparative self-enhancement in which participants rated positive traits more characteristic of their own true selves than those of others’; negative traits were considered as more characteristic of others’, with the exception of their close friend’s, true selves rather than of their own true selves. Moreover, I replicated previous findings (e.g., Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2016; Newman et al., 2014) that positive attributes are more likely to be viewed as expressions of the true self.In the third study, I extended my previous findings to morality-related personality traits. Morality, arguably, is considered as the constitutional feature of the true self (Strohminger et al., 2017). Thus, by showing that people view moral traits as more reflective of their own true selves rather than those of average peers’, I, again, found compelling evidence of self-enhancement in true-self comparative judgments. Study 3, in addition, incorporated judgments regarding the selfand the potential self. I found that the potential self is viewed more morally than the true self, suggesting that assessing the true self isnot completely basedon personal fantasies or future self-projections (Bargh et al., 2002; Rogers, 1961) but requires a certain level of self-knowledge (Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2018). I also found that people believe that their true selves are more moral than their actual selves, replicating previous findings that the true self is perceived distinctly from the self (Christy et al., 2019; Strohminger et al., 2017), and moral goodness is the core of the true self (De Freitas et al., 2018; Newman et al., 2014). In the last two studies, I tested my previous findings in a moral behavioral context. Specifically, Study 4 used hypothetical moral dilemmas, and Study 5 employed actual behaviors that participants have committed in the past. In both studies, I found that people view immoral behaviors as more characteristics of others’ true selves than of their own. Moreover, moral behaviors are considered as more reflective of participants’ own true selves rather than of others’ true selves (Study 5). The lack of significant difference in immoral behavioral comparisons in Study 4 might be due to the perceptions of hypothetical scenarios being unrealistic. These two studies together demonstrated that comparative self-enhancement functions in the true-self judgments regarding moral information processing. Self-Enhancement in the True SelfThe value of authenticity, or being true to oneself, has been studied in many intellectual traditions. For instance, the modern concept of “self” derives arguably, from the emerging notion in the seventeenth century that people have natural rights (Taylor,1989), which, in turn, provide one basis for the belief in being true, or untrue, to one’s nature. From a philosophical stance, authenticity or the true self implies an underlying true nature, or psychological essence, within individuals that makes them who they truly are (Kierkegaard, 1954; Rogers, 1961). It seems clear, though, that people believe they have a true self, or at least endorse true self beliefs, when queried in psychological experiments (e.g. Christy et al., 2019). Recent research suggests that true self beliefs reflect “psychological essentialism,” which,as the name implies, is an aspect of self that remains invariant through surface changes (Christy et al., 2019). Some of the most interesting applications of the true-self construct in empirical research has been to show that people believe that their true selves are morally superior to their actual behavior (e.g., Newman et al., 2015). Research findings suggest that when people fall short of their behavioral ideals, they believe that there is a superior essence within that reflects their true selves more accurately.

Thus, the question pursued in the five studies described in this article can be interpreted as whether all essences, or true selves, are considered equal. If people believe in an essence that characterizes all human species, then there is little reason to expect one person’s essence to be better than that of another. Accordingly, by contrast, the extensive literature on self-enhancement in general, and comparative bias in particular, provides ample reason to question whether true-self judgments are immune from the ubiquitous self-serving tendencies that are reflected in many trait and behavior judgments (Alicke & Sedikides, 2011).The present studies call into question the strongest claim that has been made for true selves, namely, that people evaluate them just as favorably regardless of whether they belong to themselves or others. The findings from those five studies suggest the opposite –the true self assessments are subject to self-enhancement, in which people view their own true selves more favorably. Here I list two potential reasons that account for these findings.First, individuals might be more motivated to enhance their true selves because the true self is the core and the essential aspect of the self. From a self-enhancement perspective, the belief in a true self allows individuals to claim an arguably more favorable self that exists within their surface self, especially when their actual self is less socially desirable. The tendency to see oneself in a flattering fashion is stronger in the domains that are more relevant to a person’s self-image (Pedregon et al., 2012). Thus, by construing the true self to their own advantages, individuals are able to express a skewed, often a more positive, representation of their core identity that tells who they really are.

Moreover, self-enhancement in the true self tendsto be easier to achieve because of the hidden nature of the true self. Past research has shown that self-enhancement is facilitated when the judgment dimensions are more abstract as opposed to objective or concrete (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). Researchers have pointed out that understanding the true self is extremely subjective becausethe true-self judgments and comparisons are outside the boundaries of objective measurement tests (Strohminger et al., 2017).Thus, the invisibility of the true-self judgments might promote the chances of self-enhancement, because the possibility for invalidation is low (Alicke & Govorun, 2005; Alicke & Sedikides, 2009).The findings in this article not only suggest a perspective-dependent viewon the true-self judgments, but also challenge the common notion of an unbiased processing of authenticity. Kernis and Goldman (2006) argued that authenticity reflects the relative absence of self-serving bias or interpretive distortions, such as defensiveness and self‐aggrandizement, in the processing of self‐relevant information. Accordingly, individuals should objectively accept one’s strengths and weaknesses. Increasing literature, however, questions this assumption. For example, Jongman-Sereno and Leary (2016) demonstrated that positive events are judged to be more authentic than negative ones. Similarly, Christy and colleagues (2016, 2017) have shown that thinking about one's past moral behaviors increased participants' ratings of self-knowledge (as measured by the Self-Awareness Subscale of Kernis & Goldman’s, 2006, the Authenticity Inventory), whereas contemplating one's past immoral behaviors decreased these ratings. By showing that this positivity bias extends to self-other comparisons, those five studies provide strong support for the argument that authenticity isa biased construct.True Self vs. Other SelvesThe true self, by its nature, presumably differs from the actual self. This distinction is implied in previous research that asks participants to compare their actual behavior with that of their true or authentic selves (Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2016). To myknowledge, however, direct comparisons of true and actual selves have not yet been effected, although Christy et al. (2019) have found that participants view true selves as more essential than actual selves. The findings of Study 3 directly confirmed theelevation of the true self over the actual self, thereby supporting investigators’ assumption that true selves are evaluated more favorably than actual selves (e.g., Strohminger et al., 2017).Most individuals have a vested interest in believing that there is a better self within than the one that is outwardly manifested. Even the moral peopleamong us have presumably, on occasion, done things they regretted, or failed to live up to their expectations. Both theory (Strohminger et al., 2017)and the empirical results of Study 3suggest that the true self is perceived as an improvement to the actual self. Although participants’ precise interpretation of this comparison standard will require further research, Christy et al. (2019) have made important strides in suggesting that people construe the true self as an enduring and essential aspect of identity. In comparing their actual selves to their true ones, therefore, participants may be thinking of a core essence that is better in most respects to its surface appearances.

In Study 3, I was interested in exploring whether another self construction—the potential self—would be even more favorably evaluated than the true self. Because potential selves point to a hypothetical future, they provide considerable latitude for construction. In essence, people are free to fantasize, and self-enhance, at will about how events will unfold in the future, with no immediate chance of invalidation. Consistent with this reasoning, I found that the potential self was evaluated more favorably than any other comparison standard.

Limits and Future Directions

Although I demonstrated that self-enhancing tendency still operates in the true self comparative judgment, it is still unclear what the underlying mechanisms are. In other words, are individuals believe that their true selves, by nature, are fundamentally more positive than others’true selves? Or is it that individuals are motivated to aggrandize their true selves? From a motivational stance, self-enhancement concerns more with the latter, as it implies that people are constantly seeking positive self-regard that is sometimes mismatched with the objective reality (Alicke & Sedikides, 2011). That is, individuals are aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses to some extent, but actively construe illusionary positive identities. This is consistent with the notion that self-knowledge is required to experience subjective authenticity (Kernis & Goldman, 2006; Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2018). Therefore, the distortedly favorable views of one’s true self can be viewed as a result of a process of exaggerating strengths and overlooking shortcomings. From an essentialist perspective, however, the true self, as the essence of one’s identity, is shown to be immutable and inherent (Christy et al., 2019).

Thus, it is also reasonable to argue that the enhanced true self comes from the belief that people think their true selves are innately better than those of others.In addition to investigating whether people are enhancing their true selves by believing their true selves are superior or by actively viewing their true selves more favorably, researchers should conduct studies that examine the effect of self-enhancement on perceived or subjectivelyexperienced authenticity. Research has shown that positive affect, such as feeling competent, prosocial, and self-compassionate, increases the subjective feelings of being authentic (Lenton, Bruder, Slabu, & Sedikides, 2013; Sedikides et al., 2018; Zhang et al., 2019). Nonetheless, to my knowledge, there is no research that directly explores whether induced self-enhancement increases authenticity judgments. It is possible that self-enhancement improves the accessibility of positive self-views that potentially lead to enhanced feelings of authenticity.Resolving the role of self-enhancement in true and authentic self judgments will require further research, but I close by speculating that essential selves, and true or authentic selves, may be distinct constructs. Previous findings clearly establish that humans believe that their nature tends toward the good, and the findings here show that people believe that “my good is better than yours.” Asking people to evaluate their “true” or “authentic” abilities, or goodness, or to compare their true characteristicto others’, seems destined to prime self-enhancement concerns. Further research will hopefully help to clarify the nature of true and authentic selves, both in terms of their precise interpretation by individuals, and their implications for social judgment and behavior.

Failed replication of Vohs & Schooler 2008: Manipulating free will beliefs in a robust way is more difficult than has been implied by prior work, & the proposed link with immoral behavior may not be as consistent as suggested

Nadelhoffer, Thomas, Jason Shepard, Damien Crone, Jim A. C. Everett, Brian D. Earp, and Neil Levy. 2019. “Does Encouraging a Belief in Determinism Increase Cheating? Reconsidering the Value of Believing in Free Will.” OSF Preprints. May 3. doi:10.31219/osf.io/bhpe5

Abstract: A key source of support for the view that challenging people’s beliefs about free will may undermine moral behavior is two classic studies by Vohs and Schooler (2008). These authors reported that exposure to certain prompts suggesting that free will is an illusion increased cheating behavior. In the present paper, we report several attempts to replicate this influential and widely cited work. Over a series of four high-powered studies (sample sizes of N = 162, N = 283, N = 268, N = 804) (three preregistered) we tested the relationship between (1) anti-free-will prompts and free will beliefs and (2) free will beliefs and immoral behavior. Our primary task was to closely replicate the findings from Vohs and Schooler (2008) using the same or similar manipulations and measurements as the ones used in their original studies. Our efforts were largely unsuccessful. We suggest that manipulating free will beliefs in a robust way is more difficult than has been implied by prior work, and that the proposed link with immoral behavior may not be as consistent as previous work suggests.

4. General Discussion
The free will debate has gone mainstream in recent years in the wake of scientific advances that on some accounts seem to undermine free will. Given the traditional associations between free will and moral responsibility, a great deal may hang on this debate. In a high-profile paper on the relationship between free will beliefs and moral behavior, Vohs and Schooler (2008) cautioned against public pronouncements disputing the existence of free will, based on their findings concerning the relationship between free will beliefs and cheating. Our goal in this paper was to replicate their landmark findings. Across four studies, we had mixed results. While we were able to influence people’s beliefs in free will in one of the four studies, we failed in our efforts to find a relationship between free will beliefs and behavior. When coupled with the work of other researchers who have had difficulty replicating the original findings by Vohs and Schooler, we think this should give us further pause for concern.
That said, there are four primary limitations of our studies. First, in light of the results from Study 4, it is possible that there is a link between free will belief and moral behavior—we just failed to detect it because our two behavioral studies were not high powered enough. Perhaps a very high-powered (800+ participants) behavioral experiment would replicate Vohs and Schooler’s original findings. That is certainly possible, but we are doubtful that simply running another high-powered experiment would yield the desired effect. After all, our pooled data analyses have 1,089 and 551 pooled participants, respectively. Moreover, Monroe, Brady, and Malle (2016) had mixed results manipulating free will beliefs in very high-powered studies. And even when they did manage to decrease free will beliefs, they did not find any behavioral differences. So, we are not convinced that insufficient power explains our failures to replicate—especially given that in Vohs and Schooler’s original studies were underpowered (N = 15-30 per cell) and yet they found very large effects both with respect to manipulating free will beliefs (d = 1.20) and influencing cheating behavior (d = 0.88). By our lights, we have done enough in this paper—when coupled with the other mixed results from attempts to replicate Vohs and Schooler (2008)—to weaken our collective confidence in the proposed relationship between free will beliefs and moral behaviors. That is not to say there is no relationship, however, it suggests that if there is one, it likely not a relationship we should be especially worried about from the dual standpoints of morality and public policy.
The second potential problem with our studies is that we ran them online rather than using a convenience sample, as Vohs and Schooler did. While we tried to ensure that we mimicked their original work as much as possible, follow up studies with a convenience sample would certainly be valuable. However, the differences in sample should not deflate the importance of our replication attempts. After all, the effect (and its societal implications) are claimed to be pervasive. If directly communicating skepticism about free will barely undermined people's beliefs and (going beyond our own data) at most resulted in only a trivial increase in bad behavior (or affected behavior in a very limited range of contexts), then the effect is arguably unimportant and unworthy of the substantial attention it has received so far. A third limitation is that we only used American participants. However, this limitation is an artifact of our goal of trying to replicate the work by Vohs and Schooler. Because they used an American sample, we used an American sample. Figuring out whether their work replicates in a non-American sample is a task for another day. That said, we would obviously welcome cross-cultural studies that implemented our paradigms to see whether our findings are cross-culturally stable.
The fourth and final limitation our experimental design is the possibility that MTurk participants may not be as attentive as in-lab participants. To guard against this, we used an attention check and excluded any participants who failed it. We also used two items designed to encourage participants to pay attention by reminding them that they would be asked to write about the content of the vignette they read. While these measures can obviously not guarantee participants are paying attention, we’d like to think that they reduce the likelihood of inattention. Additionally, many lab tasks that are particularly susceptible to lapses in attention have been replicated using MTurk populations, including tasks that depend on difference in reaction times on the scale of milliseconds (e.g., Erikson Flanker tasks) and memory tasks that are heavily attention-dependent (see Woods, et al., 2015 for a review).
Setting these limitations aside, we nevertheless think we have made a valuable contribution to the literature on the relationship between free will beliefs and moral behavior. Minimally, our findings serve as a cautionary tale for those who fret that challenging free will beliefs might undermine public morality. Future research on this front will have to take into consideration the difficulty of replicating both standard manipulations of belief in free will and the purported link between free will skepticism and morality. Contrary to our initial expectations, the association between free will beliefs and moral behavior appears to be elusive. As such, worries about the purported erosion of societal mores in the wake of recent advances in neuroscience are likely to be misplaced. The belief in free will appears to be more stable, robust, and resistant to challenge than earlier work suggests. While some scientists may think that their research undermines the traditional picture of agency and responsibility, public beliefs on this front are likely to be relatively slow to change. Even if beliefs about free will were to incrementally change, given the lack of association between dispositional free will beliefs and moral behavior reported by Crone and Levy (2018), it is unclear that people would have difficulty integrating such beliefs into a coherent worldview that permits the same level of moral behavior.