Free Will, Counterfactual Reflection, and the Meaningfulness of Life Events


Research has found that counterfactual reflection, the act of mentally undoing past events, imbues major life experiences with meaning. The current studies examined whether individual differences in free will beliefs moderate this relationship. Participants described a significant event in their lives, were randomly assigned to counterfactual or factual reflection about the event, and completed measures of meaning and free will. Two studies found that counterfactual reflection enhanced the meaningfulness of life events for people with high belief in free will but not for people with low belief in free will. These studies suggest that beliefs in free will are an important factor in meaning-making processes.

Social Psychological and Personality Science