I've read in a few places that people tend to get depressed and lose motivation in life after losing their belief in free will; that even if you "know" free will does not exist, you are better off believing in it anyway, e.g. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/ (sorry for the paywall). As a disbeliever in the existence of free will myself, I'd prefer not to be forced to adopt a belief system with such inherent cognitive dissonance. So I've been trying to think of ways around that ...
Thought experiment: let's start by assuming we live in a deterministic universe. We conduct an experiment where a subject is placed in a room and asked some trivia question -- a correct answer gets her a monetary reward so she has some motivation to put effort into answering correctly. We know she will answer based on the current state of the universe which includes the current state of her mind.
In this experiment we can create an alternate universe where the experiment is repeated with the exact same initial conditions / state. She will subjectively have the same experience, expend the same amount of effort, and provide the same answer.
Now let's repeat the experiment but this time we prime her with a belief that free will does not exist. Primed with this belief, she concludes she will provide the same answer whether she tries or not and ends up not expending as much effort as she otherwise would have and perhaps chooses a different answer [edit: with only this priming, she is likely (even if mistakenly so) to become fatalistic and less motivated (see similar real life experiments in the linked article)].
Finally, let's repeat the experiment one more time but this time tell her 1. free will does not exist, and 2. effort expended is directly proportional to performance on trivia questions.
- Does the priming that effort->results have the potential to counteract the reduced effort observed in the previous experiment?
- Do these two beliefs introduce logical fallacies / cognitive dissonance experienced by the subject?
I think (1) is true since our beliefs impact our actions and a belief that effort will get you what you want will lead the subject to expend effort. (2) is the trickier one -- I want to say no because if learning and decision-making can be considered physical processes/algorithms, the beliefs we prime her with causes her to "decide to try" in spite of her disbelief in free will; "decide to try" here being just another run of her decision-making algorithm that makes use of the knowledge that effort->results.