I don't understand why the 'free will' thing keeps popping back up again and again. Either you don't have it or you do and it will not change the way you behave. If you suddenly learned that you do not possess 'free will' will you just out of a window???? Are you not going to put bad people in prison????? Or are you going to just continue doing what you have been doing???? What would the universe look like if it was not predictable or only predictable to a variable degree? Can you imagine such a universe? 

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As one person demanded of me, can you give me a direct cite of the research to support this? Yes, there such people as you describe - they are called "psychopaths". And they are so dangerous to the community that, unless someday a "cure" can be found, lethal force is likely required. And, yes, that's a pretty harsh demand, but if an individual is actively hostile and destructive to his/her community regardless what measures are taken to dissuade them, then it's justified solely on the basis of self-defense. 

Actually, a number of studies I was covering during my Lifespan Development class seemed to indicate that in China and in African-American populations (essentially those that use punishment).  What has seemed to be the deciding factor is the level of positive regard toward the child.  If proper attention and positive regard are present, punishment is not an emotionally damaging experience.

However, the caveat is that in the USA, due to the earlier studies, this has become a near impossiblity.  And not using punishment is still a more effective method.  However China produces a surprisingly strong work ethic.  However, they are beginning to adopt western methods as well.

I can see punishment immediately as a trespass occurs, limited in duration, and mostly to indicate specific conduct as not acceptable as being instructive, as long as their is support afterwards to reinforce the child's sense of being accepted as being workable - which is what I think you are describing. I'd need to have more information about these studies and their criticisms to make any determination of their worth. Don't worry, I was stuck tonight having lost track of the specifics of a study I hadn't seen in 15 years when someone asked me to cite it. :) I know how that sucks.


Found the study.  The great thing is that is is pretty comprehensive on past research, so you may find what you were looking for too.

Sweet. You said "a number of studies" Would have been nice to have been able to compare across different ones. Any references to criticisms of the study? Seeing the process of peer-review is helpful.

I can't remember what else I ran across when I was doing research for that class, but the study in there is really the most important of them and any counter research would be concerned with refuting this.  

Dornbusch, S. M., Ritter, P. L., Leiderman, P. H., Roberts, D. F., & Fraleigh, M. J. (1987). The relation of parenting style to adolescent school performance. Child Development58, 1244–1257

 From what I have seen though it seems to be fairly accepted, though I just saw a study which seems to contradict it.  However this may also be due to the changing values inside of China as it adopts western values. 

Authoritative and Authoritarian Parenting Practices and Social and School Performance in Chinese Children doi: 10.1080/016502597384703International Journal of Behavioral Development November 1997 vol. 21no. 4 855-873

It's hard to do any serious studies on childhood development too. I've only seen one that managed to overcome the usual obstacles and it was a nightmare to keep going. The duration alone was over 20 years.

BTW, I wasn't considering the issue with children in mind, rather adults. I completely agree with regard to children; their actions have consequences so minimal that post-action punishment will rarely be justified or effective. People beyond their formative years, however, will usually have more intractable personality traits, and can probably not be so easily sculpted by positive reinforcement, although it may still be helpful. Adults are also unlikely to be so easily duped by the kind of gimmicks that seduce children.

A lot of this discussion has devolved into a discussion of crime, punishment, and justice, all of which presume that the criminal may not have free will, but the rest of us do, so that we can freely decide the best way to handle criminality and mete out punishment or justice.

The thing is, if there is no free will, then we are no more free than the criminal and, like the criminal we simply do what we have to do, and not because what we do is justified or good. We may feel what we do is justified or good, but basically we're trapped just like the criminal, responding according to the laws of nature as the come to bear on our nervous systems.

I paraphrase Frank Zappa from his Freak Out! album: "Help I'm (like) a rock." Rocks behave according to the physical laws of nature, and so do we.

Yeah, you're right. I suppose the discussion is better viewed from the perspective of what we hope we will do, rather than what we will choose to do. Of course we do not essentially have the ability to make truly independent choices based on the our knowledge of free will's absence; however, if we learn of its non-existence this will likely influence the mental processes that currently manifest as free will, this should bring about a different set of circumstances than a situation in which people were not having these discussions. Everything is predetermined or random (but not chosen) so what we are really saying is that what we are currently discussing is important in 'forcing' us to react a certain way to criminals etc. It's kind of an academic issue about whether it is good or bad to believe in free will, rather than whether we should or shouldn't, which is out of our hands. But yeah, in terms of what's going to happen, we are "like a rock".

Free will doesn't appear real to me. I believe it's simply another ploy of the ego to prop up the illusion of its existence. However, I pretend I have it as I don't know how to live without it.

You don't know how to live without believing in it. This is true of all of us, I think. But it's one of the many illusions we live with. People who can give up the notion of a magical sorcerer (God) find it hard to give up the notion of free will—a religious idea, meant to allow for blame and praise, sin and sainthood, concepts which are hard for even atheists to give up. And of course, being a determinist, I know that atheists will give them according to conditions in their brain.

The only escape from believing that we are subject to the laws of the physical universe is to go back to believing in a spiritual (and religious) entitity: the soul.


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