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  • (5) Feldman, G., Wong, K. F. E., & Baumeister, R. F. (2016). Bad is freer than good: Positive–negative asymmetry in attributions of free will. Consciousness and Cognition, 42, 26-40. DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.03.005
  • (4) Feldman, G., Chandrashekar, S. P., & Wong, K. F. E. (2016). The freedom to excel: Belief in free will predicts better academic performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 90, 377–383. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.043


  • (3) Feldman, G., Chao, M., Farh, J., & Bardi, A. (2015). The motivation and inhibition of breaking the rules: Personal values structures predict unethicality. Journal of Research in Personality, 59, 69-80. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2015.09.003
  • (2) Parks-Leduc, L., Feldman, G., & Bardi, A. (2015). Personality traits and personal values: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19, 3–29. DOI: 10.1177/1088868314538548


Abstracts of published articles

The impact of past behavior normality on regret: Replication and extension of three experiments of the exceptionality effect

Norm theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986) described a tendency for people to associate stronger regret with a negative outcome when it is a result of an exception (abnormal behavior) compared to when it is a result of routine (normal behavior). In two pre-registered studies, we conducted a replication and extension of three classic experiments on past behavior exception/routine contrasts (N = 684). We successfully replicated Kahneman and Miller’s (1986) experiments with the classic hitchhiker-scenario (Part 1) and car accident-scenario (Part 2). In both cases, participants examined negative outcomes and tended to indicate a protagonist who deviated from own past behavior as more regretful than another who followed routine. Pre-registered extensions also showed effects for ratings of social norms, negative affect, and perceived luck. We did not find support for the Miller and McFarland (1986) experiment robbery scenario (Part 3) using a compensation measure, in that compensation to a victim of a robbery was not significantly different comparing exceptional and routine circumstances. However, a pre-registered extension showed that robbery under exceptional circumstances was regretted more than robbery under routine circumstances. We discuss implications for current and future research.

When action-inaction framing leads to higher escalation of commitment: A new inaction-effect perspective on the sunk-cost fallacy

Escalation of commitment to a failing course of action occurs in the presence of (1) sunk-costs, (2) negative-feedback that things are deviating from expectations, and (3) a decision between escalation and de-escalation (Brockner, 1992). Most of the literature to date has focused on sunk-costs, yet we offer a new perspective on the classic escalation-of-commitment phenomenon by focusing on the impact of negative-feedback. Based on inaction-effect bias (Zeelenberg et al., 2002) we theorized that negative-feedback results in the tendency to take action, regardless of what that action may be. In four experiments, we demonstrated that people facing escalation decision situations were indeed action-oriented, and that framing escalation as action and de-escalation as inaction resulted in a stronger tendency to escalate than framing de-escalation as action and escalation as inaction (mini-meta effect d = 0.37).

What is honesty? Laypersons interpret high lie-scale scores as reflecting intentional dishonesty

Scholars have recently been questioning the original premise of lie-scales as measuring dishonesty for social desirability, with some even claiming that lie-scales may in fact represent higher honesty (e.g., de Vries et al., 2017 commentary on Feldman, Lian, Kosinski, & Stillwell, 2017). In a pre-registered experiment, I examined the relationship between lie-scales and honesty by directly assessing laypersons’ perceptions of honesty reflected in lie-scales. Overall, laypersons perceived higher lie-scale scores as reflecting higher dishonesty and higher lie-scale scorers as more intentionally dishonest and socially sensitive, endorsing a negative (and rejecting a positive) relationship between lie-scales and honesty. These findings provide empirical support for lie-scales as capturing dishonesty. I discuss implications and possible directions for addressing the complexity inherent in the construct of honesty and the need for an integration of the seemingly contradictory findings to advance the debate regarding lie-scales and honesty.

Agency beliefs over time and across cultures: Free will beliefs predict higher job satisfaction

In three studies we examined the relationship between free will beliefs and job satisfaction over time and across cultures. Study 1 examined 252 Taiwanese real-estate agents over a three-months period. Study 2 examined job satisfaction for 137 American workers on an online labor market over a six-months period. Study 3 extended to a large sample of 14,062 employees from 16 countries and examined country-level moderators. We found a consistent positive relationship between the belief in free will and job satisfaction. The relationship was above and beyond other agency constructs (Study 2), mediated by perceived autonomy (Studies 2-3), and stronger in countries with a higher national endorsement of the belief in free will (Study 3). We conclude that free-will beliefs predict outcomes over time and across cultures beyond other agency constructs. We call for more cross-cultural and longitudinal studies examining free-will beliefs as predictors of real-life outcomes.

Laypersons’ beliefs and intuitions about free will and determinism: New insights linking the social psychology and experimental philosophy paradigms

We linked between the social-psychology and experimental-philosophy paradigms for the study of folk intuitions and beliefs regarding the concept of free will to answer three questions: (1) what intuitions do people have about free-will and determinism? (2) do free will beliefs predict differences in free-will and determinism intuitions? and (3) is there more to free-will and determinism than experiencing certainty or uncertainty about the nature of the universe? Overall, laypersons viewed the universe as allowing for human indeterminism, and they did so with certainty. Examining intuitions of prosociality, future-orientation, learning, meaningfulness, human uniqueness, and well-being, ratings were highest in the indeterministic universe condition and lowest in the deterministic universe condition, both significantly different from the uncertain universe condition. Participants’ free will beliefs had only weak impact on realism, happiness, and learning intuitions, but did not reverse the general intuition favoring indeterminism, and showed no impact on other intuitions.

Frankly, we do give a damn: The relationship between profanity and honesty

There are two conflicting perspectives regarding the relationship between profanity and dishonesty. These two forms of norm-violating behavior share common causes, and are often considered to be positively related. On the other hand, however, profanity is often used to express one’s genuine feelings, and could therefore be negatively related to dishonesty. In three studies, we explored the relationship between profanity and honesty. We examined profanity and honesty first with profanity behavior and lying on a scale in the lab (Study 1; N = 276), then with a linguistic analysis of real-life social interactions on Facebook (Study 2; N = 73,789), and finally with profanity and integrity indexes for the aggregate level of U.S. states (Study 3; N = 50 states). We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level.

Making sense of agency: Belief in free will as a unique and important construct

Belief in free will is the general belief that human behavior is free from internal and external constraints across situations for both self and others. In the last decade scholars in social-cognitive psychology and experimental philosophy have made progress in defining free will terms, exploring how laypersons think of free will, discovering related cognitive processes and biases, and examining the behavioral outcomes of believing in free will. The growing interest in this construct raises the need for a discussion of what is new about free will beliefs, and how this construct differs from and relates to other well-known agency-related constructs in the literature. In this review, we integrate conceptual discussions and empirical findings in the existing literature to highlight the belief in free will as a separate and important construct, different from existing constructs in the literature, and capturing unique aspects of agency. We conclude by calling researchers to recognize these differences and to leverage the potential in the construct of the belief in free will as a predictor of cognition and behavior.

Norm theory and the action-effect: The role of social norms in regret following action and inaction

The action-effect (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982) is one of the most widely cited and replicated effects in the regret literature, showing that negative outcomes are regretted more when they are a result of action compared to inaction. Building on theoretical arguments by norm theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986) and the concept of normality, we examine the role of social norms for action and inaction in affecting regret. In four experiments we manipulated social norms and action-effect scenarios and found that social norms matter. For decisions resulting in negative outcomes, action is regretted more than inaction when social norms are for inaction, but when social norms are for action the effect is significantly weakened (Experiments 1 and 4) or reversed (Experiments 2 and 3).

Bad is freer than good: Positive–negative asymmetry in attributions of free will

Recent findings support the idea that the belief in free will serves as the basis for moral responsibility, thus promoting the punishment of immoral agents. We theorized that free will extends beyond morality to serve as the basis for accountability and the capacity for change more broadly, not only for others but also for the self. Five experiments showed that people attributed higher freedom of will to negative than to positive valence, regardless of morality or intent, for both self and others. In recalling everyday life situations and in classical decision making paradigms, negative actions, negatives outcomes, and negative framing were attributed higher free will than positive ones. Free will attributions were mainly driven by action or outcome valence, but not intent. These findings show consistent support for the idea that free will underlies laypersons’ sense-making for accountability and change under negative circumstances.

The freedom to excel: Belief in free will predicts better academic performance

Increasing evidence supports the importance of beliefs in predicting positive outcomes in life. This study examines the performance implications of the belief in free will as an abstract, philosophical belief that views the self as free from internal and external constraints and capable of choosing and directing one’s own path. In Study 1 (N = 116, undergraduates), belief in free will was associated with higher performance on an academic proofreading task. In Study 2 (N = 614, undergraduates), we examined performance in real academic settings, and the belief in free will measured at the beginning of the semester predicted better course and semester grades at the end of the semester. Importantly, we found support for the distinctive contribution of the belief in free will in comparison to well-established predictors of academic performance – trait self-control and implicit theories. We conclude that individual differences in the endorsement of the belief in free will are a significant and unique predictor of academic achievement.

The motivation and inhibition of breaking the rules: Personal values structures predict unethicality

We theorized and tested the relationship of personal value systems with unethical attitudes and behavior. Results from three studies using 16 diverse multi-national samples (N = 107,087) demonstrated the complexity of motivations underlying unethicality. Across contexts and cultures, for attitudes (Study 1 meta-analysis) and behaviors in the lab (Study 2) and in real-life (Study 3), we consistently found that the values theory circumplex structure predicted the inhibition and motivation of unethicality. Unethicality was positively associated with self-enhancement values and negatively associated with self-transcendence and conservation values. However, self-transcendence and conservation values were associated with the inhibition of different types of unethicality. The relationship of openness-to-change values with unethicality was generally positive but the effect size varied depending on context.

Personality traits and personal values: A meta-analysis

Personality traits and personal values are important psychological characteristics, serving as important predictors of many outcomes. Yet, they are frequently studied separately, leaving the field with a limited understanding of their relationships. We review existing perspectives regarding the nature of the relationships between traits and values and provide a conceptual underpinning for understanding the strength of these relationships. Using 60 studies, we present a meta-analysis of the relationships between the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality traits and the Schwartz values, and demonstrate consistent and theoretically meaningful relationships. However, these relationships were not generally large, demonstrating that traits and values are distinct constructs. We find support for our premise that more cognitively based traits are more strongly related to values and more emotionally based traits are less strongly related to values. Findings also suggest that controlling for personal scale-use tendencies in values is advisable.

Free will is about choosing: Links between choice and beliefs in free will

Expert opinions have yielded a wide and controversial assortment of conceptions of free will, but laypersons seem to associate free will more simply with making choices. We found that the more strongly people believed in free will, the more they liked making choices, the higher they rated their ability to make decisions (Study 1), the less difficult they perceived making decisions, and the more satisfied they were with their decisions (Study 2). High free will belief was also associated with more spontaneous associating of choice with freedom, and with the perception of actions as choices. Recalling choices (Study 3) and making choices (Study 4) led to a stronger endorsement of the belief in free will, with an additional effect for the level of choice involved. These findings suggest that the everyday social reality of beliefs about free will is a matter of how people think and feel about choice.