Victor Horn Professor Pickford English 101 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 have shaped my life and my personality. When I was a child, I used to think that the reason why I was doing so well at school was because I was simply talented from birth.
But as I grew up and learned more about the adaptive unconscious, I came to realize that my parents and the way they raised me, as much of the environment I was in, played a major role in shaping my academic success. During my childhood, my parents have always complimented me in a way that was almost annoying. They used to tell me things such as “you’re the best”, or “you’re very intelligent”, and other similar phrases. They did so because I’m their son and loved me unconditionally, but I believe there was an expected effect in their ways.That was part in my educational process, and I strongly believe it helped me build a strong personality and a high level of self-confidence as I’ve always ended at the top of my class throughout my educational years.
That is the reason why, nowadays, people put a huge emphasis on the way people raise their children. Of course, some people will probably agree with this assertion that free will is an illusion, and while I wrote the previous paragraph, I came to realize that most children do not possess free will.Actually, I cannot be sure about anybody else, but personally, I don’t recall in my childhood memories acting upon free will. As newborns are brought up into this world, they don’t know anything, so how can they possible freely choose to be whoever they want to be? The reality is that they don’t, and based on where they live, their social class, what type of education they’re going to get, the way their parents are going to raise them, and so on, they’re going to develop certain characteristics that’s going to define their personality.However, it is also important to note that genes also play a role in personality, as I learned it from a psychology I’m currently taking. Conclusively, I could say that free will at an early merely exists, but I believe individuals acquire free will as they grow and mature through life as I will elaborate in the following paragraph. Free will refers to one’s ability to choose his or her actions without being caused to do so by external forces.
I don’ t think this is possible to do at such an early age, because infants are so dependent of their parents and of what surrounds them to act on their own.However, later on in life, maybe during the teenage years or after, people do develop a sense of free will. Per example, when teenagers decide to pursue a higher education and go to college, they’re going to have to choose a major. Even though their choice is going to be based on what their skills are and their past experiences, the choices are going to be there, and they’re going to have to make that free decision. Therefore, it is agreeable to say that free will exists at some degree, but there are always going to be some external forces that are going to influence a decision made.Likewise, choosing a football team to support is suppose to be a free decision, but is it really 100% free will? I like to believe that I have decided to become a true Chargers fan, but the truth is that, since I moved to San Diego from France, I’ve probably been unconsciously primed to be a Chargers fan.
I never to chose to like the Chargers, it just happen to be that way. The priming occurred when I moved to San Diego. In France, soccer is the national sport, so I didn’t know much about American football when I got here.The first time I first saw the Chargers play, was during the 2004 season, and I believe I was at my cousin’s house watching the game with my whole family. There, everyone was wearing some type of Chargers gears and were cheering happily for them. Since that day, I’ve become a true hardcore Chargers fan. Was that decision based on pure free will? I’d like to believe so, but the truth is that, if I had to move to Pittsburgh instead of San Diego, I probably would have been a Steelers fan.
However from my present state of mind’s point of view, I don’t think I’d have been a Raiders fan if I had to move to Oakland, but who really knows? Therefore, a little bit of free will take part in deciding which football team a fan is going to cheer for, but most of that decision will be based on outside influences. In conclusion, free will does exists, but not in its actual definition. In every decision making, there are going to be some outside influences that’s going push a decision in a certain way, whether it comes from past experiences or an actual person telling a subject what to do.Free will occurs when an individual is able to perceive those influences and not act upon it. However people need to use their knowledge that’s built up in their unconscious to make the best decision for themselves, and therefore they’ll be able to become whoever they want to be and achieve a sense of self-satisfaction.
Works Cited Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. 1st edition. New York. Little, Brown and Company. Time Warner Group.