5 November 2009
Free Will Really Free?
In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates the intriguing effects of priming by citing and analyzing its effects on individuals in priming experiments. One of those experiments involved two groups of undergraduate students. One group was primed with a set of words that described a disrespectful person, and the other group was primed with a set of polite or respectful words. Then, the students were asked to walk down the hallway to get their next assignment, but on the way to the next building, two persons were purposely having a conversation to block the way. The goal of the experiment was to see if the people primed with a set of words would act differently than the other group as they would encounter the obstacle of the experiment, and there surely was a change in the comportment of the two groups. The people primed to be rude eventually interrupted the conversation after a few minutes, but the majority of the people primed to be polite never interrupted. From such experiments, Gladwell concludes that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion, and we are more susceptible to outside influences than we realize (58). I believe Gladwell’s statement is partially right. I agree that we are more susceptible to outside influence than we realize, but I don’t think of free will as an illusion. If free will was only an illusion, it would mean that the decisions we make daily are dictated by our environment, and we would have little or no control over our decisions. However, individuals do have a say in their decisions making, and their decisions are based upon past experiences which are stored in the unconscious. I’m starting to think that I’ve been primed to do well at school and I’m not who I am, because this is just who I am. By that, I mean that the person I came to be has been influenced by many influential factors that...