Your Belief in Free Will Depends on Whether You Need to Pee

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It seems like a concept as lofty and philosophical as your belief in free will should depend on deep contemplation, or perhaps religious conviction. And this is no doubt true. But it also depends on something a lot more down-to-earth: whether or not you need to pee, according to a recent paper in Consciousness and Cognition. 

Researchers asked 81 people to rate their physical state: How tired were they? How, ah, horny were they? How much did they need to pee? They also asked them about their beliefs in their own free will, using a standardized scale. And the more intensely tired or aroused — or the more they needed to urinate — the less they believed in free will. 

Something as small as needing to use the bathroom seems to be enough to remind us how much of our waking hours are devoted to attending to the physical needs of these bone-and-muscle sacks we’re dragging around. And these momentary reminders, the authors argue, can make us a little less sure about how much control we have over our own lives.