Accessibility statement

The Psychology of Will - PSY00054M

« Back to module search

  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rob Jenkins
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

We normally feel that we have free will; in particular, that we choose what to do, that our choices have consequences, and that we could have done otherwise. This feeling is fundamental to our private mental lives, and to many ethical, judicial, and religious ideas. However, it is not easy to reconcile with the picture of the world that emerges from science. Philosophers have grappled with this problem for centuries, but it is only recently that experimental psychologists, cognitive scientists, and neuroscientists have joined the fray.

This module provides an overview of theoretical and experimental work on the psychology of will, emphasising recent results from cognitive sciences, and relating these to their historical context. It also provides an opportunity to discuss will in relation to practical problems in the real world.

Students enrolling on this module should demonstrate a good understanding of core knowledge in cognitive psychology, as well as intermediate skills in quantitative statistical analyses.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe major positions on free will and determinism
  • Give an account of key experiments and findings
  • Discuss strengths and limitations of different research methods
  • Relate psychology of will to other areas of psychology
  • Evaluate implications for understanding of mind, brain, and behaviour

Module content

  • Free will and determinism
  • Experience of will and force of will
  • Deterministic systems
  • Neuroscientific studies
  • Will power and ego depletion
  • Temporal discounting and deferred gratification
  • Genes and memes
  • AI and the future of will


Task Length % of module mark
3000 word essay
N/A 60
University - closed examination
The Psychology of Will
1.5 hours 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
3000 word essay
N/A 60
University - closed examination
The Psychology of Will
1.5 hours 40

Module feedback

The marks on all assessed work will be provided on e-vision

These marks will be accompanied by module feedback circulated via e-mail.

Students will meet supervisors in wk 6 in AuT, SpT and wk 9 in SuT to discuss their marks.

Indicative reading

Sample Reading:

Wegner, D. M. (2004). Précis of The illusion of conscious will, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 634–692.

Ainslie, G. (2005). Precis of breakdown of will, Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 28 635–650.

Harris, S. (2012). Free will. Free Press. USA.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.