Researchers at Ohio State University and Indiana University have conducted a very interesting study using quantum theory, normally used to describe subatomic particles, for human behavior. And using it, they were able to predict how respondents would behave. Does this mean that we do not have free will?
Researchers at Ohio State University and Indiana University conducted a very interesting study using quantum theory, which is used every day to describe subatomic particles, to predict human behavior. And using it, they were able to predict how respondents would behave. This means that we do not have free will?
The researchers wanted to see how quantum theory (or, more precisely, one of its components having its roots in statistics) coincides with the problem that has always haunted all scientists conducting surveys in their research – how the order of the questions affects the answers given. They looked at, among other things, one public poll in which people were asked to indicate whether Bill Clinton was honest and trustworthy and whether Al Gore was honest and trustworthy.
When the Clinton question was asked first, 49% of those surveyed said both politicians were trustworthy, but when the order of the questions was changed, that number jumped to 56% – up 7%.
According to quantum theory, the number of people who answered “yes” to both questions and changed both their answers to “no” when the order of the questions was changed must be offset by people changing their answers in the opposite direction – from two “no’s” to two “yeses.” And in fact, the number of people who answered in the negative when the order of the questions was changed dropped from 28 percent to 21 percent.
A similar effect was seen with changes from yes-no (meaning people who answered, for example, that Clinton was credible and Gore was not) to no-no. What’s more, it didn’t just affect this one poll – the pattern appeared in every poll the researchers took that met the same conditions.
This phenomenon has been called quantum question equality.
From a sociological or psychological perspective it makes no sense at all, there is simply no logical reason why people would change their minds each time just like that, why completely different, independent people made decisions as if they were acting as one mind. However, this is perfectly explained by quantum theory what researchers have managed to calculate before without looking at any surveys.
Quantum theory contains a reciprocity principle that deals with changing the state of a system from one to another – here it deals with changing from the state of answers to questions about Clinton to the state of answers to questions about Gora.
And this principle works only if we ask questions one after another – we have not seen this effect in surveys where, for example, between questions we tried to clarify some issues.
This raises the key question – why does this happen? There is absolutely no theory that can explain this. In the social sciences people are never easy to predict, there will always be someone who stands out from the crowd and answers differently, and here always, every single time the same number of people changed their answers in a predictable way. So does this mean that our free will is just a fiction, and it is really just a micro effect of the universe around us?