The Relationship Between Inhibitory Control and Free Will Beliefs in 4-to 6-Year-Old-Children


This study explores the relationship between beliefs about self-control and the ability to exercise self-control in 4- to 6- year-old children. Sixty-eight children were asked a series of questions to gauge whether they believed that they could freely choose to act against their desires or inhibit themselves from performing desired actions. Children were also asked to provide qualitative explanations for why they could or could not exercise free will, and to complete two inhibitory control tasks: forbidden toy and day/night. Choice responses were negatively correlated with performance on the forbidden toy task, when children performed that task first. There was also a negative correlation between a belief in an internal locus of control, and success on the forbidden toy measure. Refraining from touching a forbidden toy appears to be correlated to less belief in free will. Though this may appear counter-intuitive, it is consistent with cross-cultural research.

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