Free will perceptions and religion in patients with schizophrenia and their caregivers

Amy Weisman de Mamani, Michael Mejia, Kayla Gura, Stephen Sapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This manuscript explores how free will perceptions relate to religious beliefs and values and psychological functioning in patients with schizophrenia and their family members. The paper begins with a discussion of what free will means and where laypeople stand on the question of itsexistence (from the literature, it appears that the overwhelming majority of the general public do subscribe to a free will perspective). Next we review psychological research on free will. Studies suggest that belief in free will has benefits to both the individual (e.g., greater self-esteem)and to society (e.g., lower rates of aggression and crime). Next we discuss components of free will and our premise that free will subsumes the following constructs: locus of control, self-efficacy, motivation, and meaning-making coping. We then turn to an overview of how free will and religion interact. We contend that a free will perspective is compatible with most Western religious views because most of these religions are founded on the premise that free will exists. The second section of the paper addresses how free will relates to functioning in patients with schizophrenia and their caregivers. Two case examples are presented.Drawing from the literature, our own empirical studies, and the numerous patients and caregivers we have treated as part of our Schizophrenia Family Project, we propose the following hypotheses: For both patients and their relatives, those who endorse greater free will beliefs (toward self) will experience greater psychological wellbeing and greater quality of life. For patients, we also propose that the severity of their psychiatric symptoms will be less severe.Finally, this paper will examine how free will perceptions may relate to religious beliefs and values to impact mental health in schizophrenia patients and their relatives. Implications from this review suggest that mental health practitioners in contact with individuals with schizophrenia and their caregivers may better serve them by fostering the notion that, despite the illness, they are still free to assume an active, autonomous role in the course of their lives. More empirical research in this area is clearly needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-52
Number of pages16
JournalPsychiatry Research Journal
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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