Scientists Say There Are Philosophical Implications of Having to Pee

Most of us know that our mood affects how we react to all the little annoyances throughout our day. But it turns out even the most minor annoyances can actually affect our deepest held beliefs in the heat of the moment.

We’re speaking, of course, about the effects of having to pee on our philosophical outlook. Hear us out.

Scientific American yesterday detailed a study observing humans’ views on their own free will. It’s an essential question of any Philosophy 101 class worth its weight — are we in charge of our own actions, of our destinies, or are all of our actions determined by some sort of mysterious force?

It’s a question as old as the ancient Greek tragedies (probably even older, in fact), and if you are indeed human, you probably have some deeply held belief on the subject. The study, however, suggests that our most deeply held beliefs can change from moment to moment based on factors as seemingly inconsequential as our bodily functions.

As Daniel Yudkin of Scientific American puts it, “belief in free will is negatively correlated with the desire to urinate.” The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition by Michael Ent and Roy Baumeister.

The researchers predicted that the more people felt they needed to pee, the less they believed that humans were in control of their own destinies.

This relationship comes from a branch of science called “embodied cognition,” which states that the moment-to-moment conditions of our bodies affects the way we think about and interact with the world. Ent and Baumeister simply applied the principles of embodied cognition to a concept as lofty as free will to see if it would still hold true for abstract concepts that one would think are more ingrained.

“When a feature of physical experience reminds subjects they are constrained by the laws of nature, Ent and Baumeister reasoned, their belief in free will should diminish,” Yudkin writes.

To find out more about the results, what they mean, and how the study was conducted, read the source article at Scientific American.