Subtly encouraging more deliberate decisions: Using a forcing technique and population stereotype to investigate free will

Pailhes, Alice and Kuhn, Gustav. 2021. Subtly encouraging more deliberate decisions: Using a forcing technique and population stereotype to investigate free will. Psychological Research, 85(4), pp. 1380-1390. ISSN 0340-0727 [Article]

PSY-Pai2020a.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (1MB) | Preview
Pailhès-Kuhn2020_Article_SubtlyEncouragingMoreDeliberat.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Magicians’ forcing techniques allow them to covertly influence spectators’ choices. We used a type of force (Position Force) to investigate whether explicitly informing people that they are making a decision results in more deliberate decisions. The magician placed four face-down cards on the table in a horizontal row, after which the spectator was asked to select a card by pushing it forward. According to magicians and position effects literature, people should be more likely to choose a card in the third position from their left, because it can be easily reached. We manipulated whether participants were reminded that they were making a decision (explicit choice) or not (implicit choice) when asked to select one of the cards. Two experiments confirmed the efficiency of the Position Force — 52% of participants chose the target card. Explicitly informing participants of the decision impairs the success of the force, leading to a more deliberate choice. A range of awareness measures illustrates that participants were unaware of their stereotypical behaviours. Participants who chose the target card significantly underestimated the number of people who would have chosen the same card, and felt as free as the participants who chose another card. Finally, we tested an embodied-cognition idea, but our data suggest that different ways of holding an object do not affect the level of self-control they have over their actions. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical implications regarding free will, Wegner’s apparent mental causation, choice blindness and reachability effects.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

All data can be found at


Magic tricks, free will, forcing techniques, deliberation, decision-making

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



18 April 2020Accepted
14 May 2020Published Online
June 2021Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 May 2020 14:22

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2021 00:57

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)