The idea that free will may be an illusion has been a source of great concern. It has led to suggestions that it may be wise to avoid public discussion of this topic lest it lead to a general moral decay. This concern has seemingly been supported by research demonstrating that individuals, when primed with the notion they lack free will, tend to cheat more and prefer less retributive punishment. The current research suggests that these effects can be moderated by the introduction of a second prime. In experiment one, participants believed they were being tested on note-taking and the subsequent recall of the content of two articles when, in fact, the dependent measure was actually the degree to which, after being primed with the articles, they cheated on a math task. It was hypothesized that the cheating effect noted in prior research would be moderated by the introduction of a second prime – one that extends the concept of self beyond our dualistic intuitions. In a second experiment, it was hypothesized that this prime would also moderate the reported reduction of preference toward retributivist punishment. In each experiment, the results trended in the direction hypothesized but in neither case were they statistically significant. The difficulties surrounding methodology and reproducibility in this type of research is discussed and suggestions for improvements in experiment design are offered.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Whitten, Shannon N.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences




UCF Palm Bay



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

May 2016