Skip to main content

February 3rd, 2017 at 4pm


Russ Kosits (Redeemer University College) with respondents Michael Inzlicht (University of Toronto) and Marie Good (Redeemer University College)


The Demise and Rise of the Will


A symposium at the 1968 annual meeting of the APA addressed the question, “Whatever happened to the will in American psychology?,” recognizing that the concept of the will had been a central psychological construct for millennia, but, by the 1930s the topic had “virtually vanished from psychological textbooks.” Fast forward to 2011, when Roy Baumeister and John Tierney—in view of the explosion of interest and research on the topic of self-regulation and self-control—boasted of “the comeback of the will.” This paper will attempt to answer the first question, i.e., why the will vanished originally, by examining the evolution of the concept of the will from the early days of Harvard to William James’ Principles of Psychology, arguing that an historical understanding of “the demise of the will” in North American psychology will put us in a better position to understand certain aspects of the “rise of the will” in contemporary psychological science. In particular, this historical framework helps us to tease apart a crucial issue that has--until very recently--been overlooked by many “willpower” researchers. Self-regulation scientists Michael Inzlicht and Marie Good will serve as respondents to the paper.


Russ Kosits is associate professor and chair of psychology at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, ON. His historical research centers on the secularization of North American psychology and has recently been having fun doing empirical research on questions related to will and willpower, themes that emerge from his historical research.

Michael Inzlicht is a Research Excellence Faculty Scholar at the University of Toronto. His primary appointment is as Professor in the Department of Psychology, but he is also cross-appointed as Professor at the Rotman School of Management, and a Research Fellow at the Behavioural Economics in Action (BEAR) group. Michael conducts research that sits at the boundaries of social psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Although he has published papers on the topics of prejudice, academic performance, and religion, his most recent interests have been in the topics of self-control, where he borrows methods from affective and cognitive neuroscience to understand the underlying nature of self-control, including how it is driven by motivation.

Marie Good is an assistant professor of psychology at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, ON. Her research has focused broadly on the relation between religiosity and psychosocial adjustment, and in the past several years she has been examining how self-control and/or desire might help explain why religiosity is associated with positive health and well-being.


York University, Behavioral Science Building (BSB), Room 163 (Large Endler room).