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Impact of personalizing experiences of manipulation outside of awareness on autonomy

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Bechlivanidis, C 


Previous studies examining the relationship between beliefs about manipulation of behavior outside of awareness and free will reveal a weak association between both constructs. That is, people reconcile the two in such a way that there is room for free will despite mechanisms determining their behavior. The present study further explores the association between judgements of manipulation outside of awareness and free will, along with other judgments (ultimate control, personal experience, concern) in real world scenarios where manipulation is expected to occur. The aim was to examine whether the relationship between manipulation outside of awareness and free will could be amplified if personalizing the experiences of the real-world examples was emphasized. To this end, study 1a (N = 111) and 1b (N = 106) (replication) emphasized that people could have been manipulated, and in study 2a (N = 106) and 2b (N = 104) (replication) emphasized that they had actually been manipulated. The findings revealed that when the degree of personalization increased so did the strength of the negative correlation between judgments of manipulation without awareness and free will. A meta-analysis of all studies (8 studies, N = 1230) that examined this relationship was conducted to locate where (by context, by individual scenario) the relationship between manipulation outside of awareness and free will was strongest. The findings reveal that the strongest associations were found in scenarios that are most prototypically associated with the unconscious (e.g. sleep research, subliminal priming, subliminal advertising, hypnotherapy).



unconscious, folk beliefs, free will, free choice, autonomy

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Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice

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American Psychological Association