Culture, Agency, and Free Will

Summer 2006

Christopher Cochran : Psychology

Mentor: Kaiping Peng, Psychology

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 American’s understanding of agency as “purposeful” and Asian’s 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.

The opportunity to do research this summer is extremely important to me. I am excited about working closely with my advisor to develop an intriguing research project. This experience will give me a head start in learning the research process and a solid foundation for my senior thesis. Finally, I am sure that this summer will be a wonderful experience because I am able to investigate a topic that I am passionate about.