Psychology 1565
Spring, 2001 

Conscious Will

Dan Wegner
496-2596, 1470 William James Hall

The basic idea of this course is that people perceive willful minds as a way of understanding behavior--including their own. This perception process can create illusions, and is responsible for the general feeling that we cause our actions.  The experience of consciously willing an act arises, in particular, whenever people perceive their own conscious thought as having caused their action--even if in reality the thought could not have been causal.  This analysis leads to new ways to examine classic questions of free will vs. determinism and mind vs. body, and also helps to understand unusual phenomena of will or volition--from phantom limbs, Ouija boards, and dowsing rods to hypnosis, spirit possession, auditory hallucinations, and dissociative identity disorder.  Most generally, it suggests a way of understanding why the intuition that we consciously will our actions is so strong and compelling.


Comments on the Main Readings. Each week there will be a main reading for the class (marked with * in the outline below). Your assignment is to do the reading and then turn in a page (or so) of comments on the reading by the Tuesday of that week. The comments should include 4 elements: a summary (a few sentences summarizing the reading), an idea (the most interesting or important idea you found in the reading or had about the topic), a question (a query, comment, complaint, wish, or issue for class discussion), and an example (something you have experienced that is relevant to the topic). This requirement accounts for 20% of your course grade.

Class Participation. Your discussion, questions, and comments in class will account for 20% of your course grade. Late arrival and/or absence from class are considered lapses in participation.

Individual Reports on the Special Readings. In addition to the main readings, there are several special readings noted for each week's topic. Each member of the class will select 2 of the weekly topics (beginning Feb. 6) and do one of the special readings those weeks. A 10-minute presentation on the special reading will be done in class on the Thursday of that week. Your assignment is to present the special readings clearly and creatively, and to explain how the reading relates to the week's topic. This requirement accounts for 25% of your course grade. 

Research Paper.  A research paper examining a specific topic in the study of conscious will accounts for 35% of your grade. A proposal for the paper (under one page) is due March 20; the paper in APA style is due May 3; and a brief presentation of your project to be delivered in class should be prepared by May. (Readings marked + below are background sources you may consult in developing your research paper.)


The main readings (*) are available on the web at:

Readings labeled ICW are chapters in Wegner, D. M. (in press). The illusion of conscious will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

The special readings for individual reports (no *) are available on file in 1472 William James Hall, and the background sources (+) are available from the library.

Feb. . 1 Organizational Meeting

Feb. 6/8   Mind Perception

     * ICW, Chapter 1: The illusion
     * Dennett, D. C. (1996). Kinds of minds. New York: Basic Books. [Ch. 1: Knowing your own mind.]

     Geschwind, D. H., Iacoboni, M. S., Mega, D. W., Zaidel, W., Cloughesy, T., & Zaidel, E. (1995). Alien hand syndrome: Interhemispheric motor disconnection due to a lesion in the midbody of the corpus callosum. Neurology, 45, 802-808.
     Heider, F., & Simmel, M. (1944). An experimental study of apparent behavior. American Journal of Psychology, 57, 243-259.
     Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat? Philosophical Review, 83, 435-450.
     Sacks, O. (1994). A neurologist's notebook: An anthropologist on Mars. New Yorker, December 27, 1993-January 3, 1994.

     + Feinberg, T. E. (2001). Altered egos: How the brain creates the self. New York: Oxford University Press.

Feb. 13/15   Brain, Body, and Will

     * ICW, Chapter 2: Brain and will

     Ramachandran, V. S., & Rogers-Ramachandran, D. (1996). Synaesthesia in phantom limbs induced with mirrors. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 263, 377-386.
     Rinn, W. E. (1984). The neuropsychology of facial expression: A review of the neurological and psychological mechanisms for producing facial expressions. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 52-77.
     Provine, R. R. (1989). Contagious yawning and infant imitation. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 27, 125-126.
     Brasil-Neto, J. P., Pascual-Leone, A., Valls-Solé, J., Cohen, L. G., & Hallett, M. (1992). Focal transcranial magnetic stimulation and response bias in a forced-choice task. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 55, 964-966.

     + Libet, B., Freeman, A., & Sutherland, K. (1999). The volitional brain: Towards a neuroscience of free will. Exeter, U. K.: Imprint Academic.
     + Ingvar, D. H. (1994). The will of the brain: Cerebral correlates of willful acts. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 171, 7-12.
     + Nørretranders, T. (1998). The user illusion: Cutting consciousness down to size. New York: Viking. [Chapter 9: The half-second delay]
     + Libet, B. (1985). Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 529-566.

Feb. 20/22   Apparent Mental Causation

     * ICW, Chapter 3: The experience of will

     Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 311-328.
     Nielson, T. I. (1963). Volition: A new experimental approach. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 4, 215-230.
     Daprati, E., Franck, N., Georgieff, N., Proust, J., Pacherie, E., Dalery, J., & Jeannerod, M. (1997). Looking for the agent: An investigation into consciousness of action and self-consciousness in schizophrenic patients. Cognition, 65, 71-86.
     Frith, C. D., & Done, D. J. (1989). Experiences of alien control in schizophrenia reflect a disorder in the central monitoring of action. Psychological Medicine, 19, 359-363. 

     + Kelley, H. H. (1980). Magic tricks: The management of causal attributions. In D. Görlitz (Ed.), Perspectives on attribution theory and research: The Bielefeld Symposium. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.
     + Michotte, A. (1963). The perception of causality. [T. R. Miles & Elaine Miles, Trans.] New York: Basic Books. (Originally published 1954)
     + Claxton, G. (1999). Whodunnit? Unpicking the "seems" of free will. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, 99-113.

Feb. 27/Mar. 1  Automatisms and Ideomotor Action

     * ICW, Chapter 4: An analysis of automatism

     Jacobson, E. (1932). The electrophysiology of mental activities. American Journal of Psychology, 44, 677-694.
     Koutstaal, W. (1992). Skirting the abyss: A history of experimental explorations of automatic writing in psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 28, 5-27.
     Vogt, E. Z., & Hyman, R. (1959). Water witching U.S.A.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
     Bernstein, E. M., & Putnam, F. W. (1986). Development, reliability, and validity of a dissociation scale. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 174, 727-735.

     + Ansfield, M. E. & Wegner, D. M. (1996). The feeling of doing. In P. M. Gollwitzer & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of action: Linking cognition and motivation to behavior (pp. 482-506). New York: Guilford.
     + Carpenter, W. B. (1888). Principles of mental physiology, with their applications to the training and discipline of the mind and the study of its morbid conditions. New York: D. Appleton & Company.

Mar. 6/8 Automaticity and Unconscious Processes

     * Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462-479.

     Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., & Burrows, L. (1996). Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71.
     Cole, J., & Paillard, J. (1995). Living without touch and peripheral information about body position and movement: Studies with deafferented subjects. In J. L. Bermudez, A. Marcel & N. Eilan (Eds.), The body and the self (pp. 245-266). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
     Dijksterhuis, A., van Knippenberg, A. (1998). The relation between perception and behavior or how to win a game of Trivial Pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 865-877.
     Lhermitte, F. (1983). "Utilization behaviour" and its relation to lesions of the frontal lobes. Brain, 106, 237-255.

+ Bargh, J. A. (1997). The automaticity of everyday life. In Wyer, R. S. (Ed.) Advances in Social Cognition, Vol. 10 (pp. 1-62). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mar. 13/15  Self-Perception and Interpretation

     * ICW, Chapter 5: Protecting the illusion

     Bem, D. J., & McConnell, H. K. (1970). Testing the self-perception explanation of dissonance phenomena: On the salience of premanipulation attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 14, 23-31.
     Beninger, R. J., Kendall, S. B., & Vanderwolf, C. H. (1974). The ability of rats to discriminate their own behaviors. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 28, 79-91.
     Gazzaniga, M. S. (1983). Right hemisphere language following brain bisection: A 20-year perspective. American Psychologist, 38, 525-537.
     Feinberg, T. E. (2001). Altered egos: How the brain creates the self. New York: Oxford University Press. (Chapter 4: Mything persons)

     + Fazio, R. H. (1987). Self-perception theory: A current perspective. In M. P. Zanna, J. M. Olson, & C. P. Herman (Eds.), Social influence: The Ontario symposium, Vol. 5 (pp. 129-150). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mar. 20/22   Action Projection and Facilitated Communication

     * ICW, Chapter 6: Action Projection]
     * Graham, G., & Stephens, G. L. (1994). Mind and mine. In G. Graham & G. L. Stephens (Eds.), Philosophical psychology (pp. 91-109). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

     Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A., & Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. American Psychologist, 50, 750-765.
     Burgess, C. A., Kirsch, I., Shane, H., Niederauer, K. L., Graham, S. M., & Bacon, A. (1998). Facilitated communication as an ideomotor response. Psychological Science, 9, 71-74.
     Blakemore, S. J., Wolpert, D. M., & Frith, C. D. (1998) Central cancellation of self-produced tickle sensation. Nature Neuroscience, 1, 635-640.
     Gross, N. C. (Sept. 14, 1998). Touched by Angels? The Jerusalem Report.

     + Twachtman-Cullen, D. (1997). A passion to believe: Autism and the facilitated communication phenomenon. Boulder, CO: Westview.
     + Georgieff, N., & Jeannerod, M. (1998). Beyond consciousness of external reality: A "who" system for consciousness of action and self-consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition, 7, 465-477.

Apr. 3/5   Spirit Possession, Channeling, and Role Playing

     * ICW, Chapter 7: Virtual Agency
     * Hughes, D. J. (1991). Blending with an other: An analysis of trance channeling in the United States. Ethos, 19, 611-84.
     * Mischel, W., & Mischel, F. (1958). Psychological aspects of spirit possession. American Anthropologist, 60, 249-260.

     Lambek, M. (1988). Spirit possession/spirit succession: Aspects of social continuity among Malagasy speakers in Mayotte. American Ethologist: The Journal of the American Ethological Society, 15, 710-731.
     Spanos, N. P., Cross, W. P., Lepage, M., & Coristine, M. (1986). Glossolalia as learned behavior: An experimental demonstration. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 21-23.
     Suler, J. (1996). The psychology of avatars and graphical space in multimedia chat communities. Psychology of Cyberspace. Http://
     Taylor, M., Cartwright, B. S., & Carlson, S. M. (1993). A developmental investigation of children's imaginary companions. Developmental Psychology, 29, 276-285.

     + Fine, G. A. (1983). Shared fantasy: Role playing games as social worlds. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
     + Brown, M. F. (1997). The channeling zone. Cambridge. MA: Harvard University press.
     + Samarin, W.J. (1972). Tongues of men and angels. New York: The Macmillian Company.

Apr. 10/12  Hypnosis

     * ICW, Chapter 8: Hypnosis and Will

     Whitehouse, W. G., Dinges, D. F., Orne, E. C., & Orne, M. T. (1988). Hypnotic hypermnesia: Enhanced memory accessibility or report bias? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 289-295.
     Newman, L. S., & Baumeister, R. F. (1996). Toward and explanation of the UFO abduction phenomenon: Hypnotic elaboration, extraterrestrial sadomasochism, and spurious memories. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 99-126.
      Bowers, K., S. & Woody, E. Z. (1996). Hypnotic amnesia and the paradox of intentional forgetting. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105(3), 381-390.
      Spanos, N. P., & Katsanis, J. (1989). Effects of instructional set on attributions of nonvolition during hypnotic and nonhypnotic analgesia. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 182-188.

     + Kihlstrom, J. F. (1985). Hypnosis. Annual Review of Psychology, 36, 385-418.
     + Hilgard, E. R. (1986). Divided consciousness: Multiple controls in human thought and action. New York: Wiley-Interscience.
     + Kirsch, I., & Lynn, S. J. (1997). Hypnotic involuntariness and the automaticity of everyday life. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 40, 329-348.
     + Lynn, S. J., Rhue, J. W., & Weekes, J. R. (1990). Hypnotic involuntariness: A social cognitive analysis. Psychological Review, 97, 169-184.

Apr. 17/19  Dissociative Identity Disorder

     * Humphreys, N., & Dennett, D. C. (1989). Speaking for our selves. Raritan: A Quarterly Review, 9, 68-98.

     Birnbaum, M. H., & Thomann, K. (1996). Visual function in multiple personality disorder. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 67, 327-334.
     Eich, E., Macaulay, D., Loewenstein, R. J., & Dihle, P. H. (1997). Implicit memory, interpersonality amnesia, and dissociative identity disorder: Comparing patients and simulators. In J. D. Read & D. S. Lindsay (Eds.), Recollections of trauma: Scientific research and clinical practice. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
     Noyes, R., & Kletti, R. (1976). Depersonalization in the face of life-threatening danger: A description. Psychiatry, 39, 19-27.
     Putnam, F. W. (1994). The switch process in multiple personality disorder and other state-change disorders. In R. M. Klein & B. K. Doane (Eds.), Psychological concepts and dissociative disorders (283-304). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

      + Acocella, J. (1999). Creating hysteria: Women and multiple personality disorder. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
     + Kihlstrom, J. F., Tataryn, D. J., & Hoyt, I. P. (1993). Dissociative disorders. In P. B. Sutker & H. E. Adams (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychopathology (Second Edition) (pp. 203-234). New York: Plenum Press.
     + Braude, S. E. (1991). First person plural: Multiple personality and the philosophy of mind. London: Routledge.

Apr. 24/26  The Uses of the Will

     * ICW, Chapter 9: The Mind's Compass

     Fletcher, G. P. (1998). Intention versus negligence. Basic concepts of criminal law. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
     Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193-210.
     Uleman, J. S. (1989). A framework for thinking intentionally about unintended thoughts. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thoughts (pp. 425-449). New York: Guilford.
     Feeney, F. (1986). Robbers as decision-makers. In D. B. Cornish & R. V. Clarke (Eds.). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending (pp. 53-71). New York: Springer-Verlag.

     + Dennett, D. C. (1984). Elbow room: The varieties of free will worth wanting. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
     + Baars, B. J. (1993). Why volition is a foundation problem for psychology. Consciousness and Cognition, 2, 281-309.

May 1/3    Presentations

May 8/10  Presentations (during Reading Period)