Christopher Cochran Humanities and Social Science
Culture, Agency, and Free Will
A great deal of research has recently emerged regarding the concepts of agency, intentionality, and Free Will. In The Illusion of Conscious Will (2002), Dan Wegner asserts that people believe they cause their own actions in a way that is concurrent with the theory of Free Will (Wegner, 2002). I believe that a lay theory of agency varies by culture. I describe Americans understanding of agency as purposeful and Asians understanding as adaptive. My hypothesis is based on cross cultural research that shows that Asians and Americans have different understandings of the Self (Markus and Kitayama, 1991), causality (Morris and Peng, 1994), and the importance of choice in life (Iyengar and Lepper, 1999). My research this summer will consist of a survey study in both Beijing and Berkeley.