Professor of Marketing
Baumeister, Sparks, Stillman, and Vohs (2007) sketch a theory of free will as the human ability to exert self-control. Self-control can produce goal-directed behavior, which free will conceptualized as random behavior cannot.The authors question whether consumer psychology can shed light on the ontological question of whether free will exists. We suggest that it is more fruitful for consumer psychology to examine consumers’ belief in free will. Specifically, the authors propose that this belief arises from consumers’ phenomenological experience of exercising self-control in the face of moral or intertemporal conflicts of will.Based on extant literature in philosophy, psychology, and economics, the authors offer both a narrower conceptualization of the nature of self-control problems and a more general conceptualization of self-control strategies, involving not only willpower but also precommitment. The authors conclude with a discussion of the consequences of consumers’ belief in free will.