For whom does determinism undermine moral responsibility? Surveying the conditions for free will across cultures

Ivar R. HANNIKAINEN, Edouard MACHERY, David ROSE, Stephen STICH, Christopher Y. OLIVOLA, Paulo SOUSA, Florian COVA, Emma Ellen Kathrina BUCHTEL, Mario ALAI, Adriano ANGELUCCI, Renatas BERNIŪNAS, Amita CHATTERJEE, Hyundeuk CHEON, In‐Rae CHO, Daniel COHNITZ, Vilius DRANSEIKA, Ángeles Eraña LAGOS, Laleh GHADAKPOUR, Maurice GRINBERG, Takaaki HASHIMOTOAmir HOROWITZ, Evgeniya HRISTOVA, Yasmina JRAISSATI, Veselina KADREVA, Kaori KARASAWA, Hackjin KIM, Yeonjeong KIM, Minwoo LEE, Carlos MAURO, Masaharu MIZUMOTO, Sebastiano MORUZZI, Jorge ORNELAS, Barbara OSIMANI, Carlos ROMERO, Alejandro Rosas LÓPEZ, Massimo SANGOI, Andrea SERENI, Sarah SONGHORIAN, Noel STRUCHINER, Vera TRIPODI, Naoki USUI, Alejandro Vázquez DEL MERCADO, Hrag A. VOSGERICHIAN, Xueyi ZHANG, Jing ZHU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Philosophers have long debated whether, if determinism is true, we should hold people morally responsible for their actions since in a deterministic universe, people are arguably not the ultimate source of their actions nor could they have done otherwise if initial conditions and the laws of nature are held fixed. To reveal how non-philosophers ordinarily reason about the conditions for free will, we conducted a cross-cultural and cross-linguistic survey (N = 5,268) spanning twenty countries and sixteen languages. Overall, participants tended to ascribe moral responsibility whether the perpetrator lacked sourcehood or alternate possibilities. However, for American, European, and Middle Eastern participants, being the ultimate source of one’s actions promoted perceptions of free will and control as well as ascriptions of blame and punishment. By contrast, being the source of one’s actions was not particularly salient to Asian participants. Finally, across cultures, participants exhibiting greater cognitive reflection were more likely to view free will as incompatible with causal determinism. We discuss these findings in light of documented cultural differences in the tendency toward dispositional versus situational attributions. Copyright © 2019 Hannikainen, Machery, Rose, Stich, Olivola, Sousa, Cova, Buchtel, Alai, Angelucci, Berniûnas, Chatterjee, Cheon, Cho, Cohnitz, Dranseika, Eraña Lagos, Ghadakpour, Grinberg, Hashimoto, Horowitz, Hristova, Jraissati, Kadreva, Karasawa, Kim, Kim, Lee, Mauro, Mizumoto, Moruzzi, Ornelas, Osimani, Romero, Rosas López, Sangoi, Sereni, Songhorian, Struchiner, Tripodi, Usui, Vázquez del Mercado, Vosgerichian, Zhang and Zhu.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2428
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


Hannikainen, I. R., Machery, E., Rose, D., Stich, S., Olivola, C. Y., Sousa, P., . . . Zhu, J. (2019). For whom does determinism undermine moral responsibility? Surveying the conditions for free will across cultures. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. Retrieved from


  • Free will
  • Compatibilism
  • Cognitive style
  • Situationism
  • Dispositionism
  • Sourcehood
  • Alternate possibilities


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