Free Will and Agency: A Scoping Review and Map

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1 Kent State University From the SelectedWorks of Paul Fehrmann Summer August 6, 2015 Free Will and Agency: A Scoping Review and Map Paul Fehrmann, Kent State University - Kent Campus Available at:

2 Free Will and Agency: A Scoping Review and Map A paper/presentation for APA Division 24 - The Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association Toronto, Canada August 6, 2015 Paul Fehrmann University Libraries, Kent State University Author Note Paul Fehrmann is an Associate Professor, and Reference, Instruction and Collection Development Librarian with responsibilities for Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, Religion and Philosophy Correspondence concerning this paper or research topic may be addressed to Paul Fehrmann University Libraries, Kent State University, Kent, OH

3 Abstract Systematic reviews (SR) are important in the health and social sciences, and could have value for theoretical and philosophical psychology (TPP). Three objectives are addressed in this paper: 1. To identify a SR framework for topics in TPP. 2. To assess current SR methods use in the TPP literature. 3. Scoping is a type of SR, and a third objective is to explore using scoping SR on this broad topic: how is the topic of free will and agency addressed in the TPP literature? Corresponding to the three objectives, these methods were used: 1. Major systematic review guidelines and recent papers describing the use of SR methods for argument-based bioethics were consulted. 2. A random sample of 90 TPP papers was assessed in A new set of 10 pdf-accessible papers were also recently assessed. The assessment looked at this core component of SR: reports of literature searching. 3. As a case study, a first stage scoping literature search used a targeted a set of TPP journals. Results: 1. A SR framework was identified in the argument based literature in bioethics that might serve for topics in TPP. 2. Examination of a targeted set of TPP literature shows minimal use of a core part of SR (literature search reporting). 3. An initial limited "map" of the "free will and agency" topic created. Key conclusion: Systematic review methods should be explored for TPP.

4 Free Will and Agency: A Scoping Review and Map Literature reviews (LR) as "overviews" on topics are common in all disciplines. LR writers use content from key sources or from as many resources as possible. Student papers, theses/ dissertations, professional articles and grant proposals all incorporate LR. Additionally, LR can stand alone as valuable resources (e.g. Psychological Bulletin). However, critics point to possible biased representation of topics with traditional LR, to possible unconscious or conscious cherry picking" of publications supporting a reviewer s viewpoint, and to the possibility of a reviewer using an unrepresentative subset of literature (Neema Sofaer & Strech, 2012). In response, a significant systematic review (SR) methods literature in the health and social sciences has shown that for some topics the shortcomings of traditional LR might be reduced. Importantly, a core part of SR is the literature search report. Decades ago Gene Glass argued that how "...one searches determines what one finds; and what one finds is the basis of the conclusions of one's integration of studies. (Glass, 1981, p. 61). Reporting the literature search supports evaluation of the search process and reasoning. This also provides a basis for confidence in reviews, and it provides structure for updating or enhancing reviews on the topic. Assuming that the positive characteristics just noted for reporting in SR might be desirable for literature review papers in theoretical and philosophical psychology, and assuming that the shortcomings noted above as possibilities with traditional reviews are a concern for TPP reviews, then the use of SR methods might have value and should be explored for topics in theoretical and philosophical psychology (TPP). This brief paper proceeds as follows. First, there is a brief discussion of SR, SR in psychology, and recent work in bioethics that contains a possible SR framework for topics in TPP. A second section reports on scans of the TPP literature to see current use of SR methods. The third section reports on experience using a part of scoping SR methodology for this broad topic: how is the topic of free will and agency addressed in the TPP literature? The final section has conclusions and recommendations. Major guidelines and work in bioethics A search on systematic review in the public PubMed shows that the use of SR is a major research methodology in the health sciences. During the past decade the use of SR in psychology has also increased considerably. The following PsycINFO search gave the results listed below. Vendor EBSCO Date: July 21, 2015, Search terms: No search terms Limits: English language, Journal Article Document Type, Systematic review as Methodology Number of hits: 2000 (17); 2005 (213); 2010 (1001); 2014 (1840). The Cochrane Handbook has been a standard SR resource for many years, and it lists goals for basic SR (Higgins & Green, 2011). This is from Section of that Handbook called "What is a systematic review?" The key characteristics of a systematic review are: a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies; an explicit, reproducible methodology; a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;

5 an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies. All major SR guidelines also provide directions on steps to take to complete SR. A key model of steps are spelled out in these chapters found in the Cochrane Handbook: Defining the review question and developing criteria for including studies Searching for studies Selecting studies and collecting data Assessing risk of bias in included studies Analysing data and undertaking meta-analyses Addressing reporting biases Presenting results and Summary of findings tables Interpreting results and drawing conclusions Rigor and resulting confidence in results can be supported by these methods for reviews. An important point though, for this paper, is that SR benefits (as noted earlier) are impacted by (based on/derived from) the reporting of how the materials are found that end up being used in the review, and this papers focus is the literature search and reporting of that search. An argument of Gough and colleagues present in their first chapter (2012) is paraphrased here. First, traditional literature reviews typically summarize what is known on a topic. They also they provide details on the studies that they consider. But they typically do not explain the criteria used to identify those studies and/or why certain studies are discussed while others are not. Those authors argue that if the process of identifying and including studies is not explicit, then it is not possible to assess the decision process. It is also not possible to interpret the meaning of the review findings. Similar views are mirrored in all of the major SR guidelines. What about SR and TPP? Of particular interest to this author has been the exploration of SR and recommendations that are found in the work of several groups of researchers in bioethics. One group has argued for using SR methods for reviews of the reasons that are given related to ethics questions. They also describe their approach to doing such a review (Strech & Sofaer, 2012). And they report on their experience with this approach (N. Sofaer & Strech, 2011). A second group also argues for using SR. Their approach is different, as they use SR to treat topics in what they call the argument-based clinical ethics literature (McCullough, Coverdale, & Chervenak, 2007). The authors above (Sofaer & Stretch) see McCullough et al. as seeking to answer an ethical question, as opposed to their approach that seeks to use SR to report on what reasons have been given for different positions. In that bioethics field there is another view (McDougall, 2015). Interestingly for the current paper, in the model presented and comments made, that author argues that these review activities must include a recording and reporting of the search strategy. In her discussion, she asserts that if there is not sufficient reporting of how authors have completed their literature search, then "...while their account is certainly plausible and well-supported with quotes from examples, the reader is essentially taking it on trust that this is the way in which clinical research is conceptualized in the policy and ethics literature overall." (McDougall, 2015).

6 Figure 1. is based on the model described by the first group of authors listed (Strech & Sofaer, 2012). Figure 1. A model from Bioethics as possibility for TPP systematic reviews Looking at the quote above suggesting that they are working on using SR for literature that uses arguments to address conceptual questions, it does seem like the authors are working with literature that parallels the work done in TPP. The next section describes our attempts to see the status of a part of SR in TPP. That is, it reports on analysis of the TPP literature to see the extent of a key SR component. It reports on the status of reporting the literature search in selected key TPP journals.

7 Scans of TPP literature to see current use of SR methods In a 2014 study, 90 randomly selected journal articles from the TPP literature were analyzed. Those results and the method for that analysis was presented at the March, 2014 midwinter meeting of The Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology in Atlanta (Fehrmann and Sicken, 2014). In brief, in that study we used this free text "or" search to look for possible articles in the 6 journals (listed in Table 2.): (overview or survey or review or viewpoints or consensus or summarizes or summary or debate*). We were thinking that writers of articles might use those terms for what they were doing and those might be literature reviews. We found minimal to no use of literature search reporting. A comparable method was used for a recent scan of a smaller set of the literature. Table 2. shows a search used that specifically looked at the key TPP journals listed. The numbers in lines represent a total number of articles in the journals listed, according to PsycINFO. Table 2 PsycINFO Search For Articles In TPP Literature In both the 2014 and recent study we looked to see any reporting of the following list of possible methods which can be used to find literature on a topic. Use of personal library/databases Library browsing in sections/shelves/collections Commercial article databases (PsycINFO, Philosopher s Index, etc.) Catalogs for books, dissertations (WorldCat, etc.) References related to the search (e.g. snowballing) Websites Conference proceedings Internet searching (Google Scholar, etc.) Contacting experts, individual scholars, or organizations Hand search journals Mirroring the 2014 study, the recent smaller set of 10 articles did not show evidence of reporting the literature search methods used.

8 Experience Using A Part Of Scoping SR Methodology For A Broad TPP Topic: How Is The Topic Of Free Will And Agency Addressed In The TPP Literature? As a part of monitoring the general SR methodology literature, guidelines for SR scoping can be found. Scoping reviews can have a number of goals. In a recent discussion, researchers noted that the most common form of a scoping review is a map of the relevant literature. These vary in scope from general accounts of the literature to studies that are just short of systematic reviews... Literature mapping aims to provide an initial indication of the location of the literature relating to a particular issue and to identify its overall size. Its objective is to map out the literature as it stands, without any immediate plan to review it systematically." (Anderson, Allen, Peckham, & Goodwin, 2008, p. 7). This is a recent listing of steps used in in scoping (Levac, Colquhoun, O Brien, & others, 2010, p. 3): Identify the initial research questions Identify the relevant studies Study selection Charting Collating, summarizing, and report the results Optional consultation stage Of particular importance in all SR methodology is the search to identify and access material for the review. Also, as repeated above, paralleling the emphasis on searching is the expectation for clear reporting of what is done to search for materials. These characteristics of basic SR methods are salient features of scoping as well. As a kind of case study, the current paper reports on use of a literature search to support possible initial mapping of the TPP literature on the broad topic mentioned earlier: how is the topic of free will and agency addressed in the TPP literature? For the current study searching was limited to computer searching. As a first part of scoping, Table 3. shows steps for a search in PsycINFO and the resulting hits. Also below, after comments on Table 3., the first results from other searches are shown. Table 3. Search on topic of free will and agency (from APA presentation)

9 The terms agent and agency were used as free text searches. Free text searching is often a key step for comprehensive searching, although a large number of irrelevant hits would result in addition to locating relevant items. Searching using controlled vocabulary (thesaurus) terms for topics seeks to identify material that APA s indexers have determined to be about those topics. And, in PsycINFO (EBSCO) the thesaurus function says this about Free Will as a controlled vocabulary term to use: Free Will Use Volition. Volition, as a controlled vocabulary term in PsycINFO to categorize content, is defined as Process of deciding on a course of action voluntarily or without direct external influence. And, the term Self-determination is defined as The power of individuals to determine their own destiny or actions. A next scoping step with the final 26 PsycINFO search results might involve analyzing the contents of the items to see topics addressed, arguments presented, etc. Additionally, a further step for a scoping review might be downloading the PhilPapers and Philosopher s Index results to a combined database. Results from more complex searching in PsycINFO might also be added to the database. Duplicates would then be removed prior to screening of remaining titles and abstracts in order to identify items for full text examination. The full text screening would also eliminate hits, prior to ending up with documents with content to use for the scoping review. Figure 2. Searches extending the simple PsycINFO search for scoping The large set of WorldCat could be used as a means of identifying material in books, but the initial results might well be handled differently. For example, there might use of explicit (and eventually reported) computer-executed exclusion criteria prior to downloading items for online screening. For example, there might be publication year limits, or language limits for scoping purposes. In addition to the above electronic searches, other searches may well use Google Scholar, or Web of Science. Some view these, along with Dissertations International as steps to take for the grey literature searching component of scoping that seeks to cast a wide net to include material not formally published, but which nevertheless could be significant. All of these kinds of searching can be relevant for a scoping topic in TPP. Of course, a key activity in all of the searching would be to document choices, steps and results so that the process could be reported in detail. The next set of comments, based on the scoping exercise, sketches one kind of a basic map that might be developed using the 26 hits from PsycINFO. Given the 26 hits seen in the PsycINFO search, one kind of map or basic breakdown of the results on free will and agency is shown in Table 4 (Table 2. from APA poster). Column one and column two, respectively, show the years of publication for the 26 free will and agency hits and the publication name. Column three shows the publication type of the hits. Other than Article, the publication types were derived by this author from exact wording of contents in the abstracts for individual hits. Articles were identified as such but the publication type authors, or were seen by this author as lengthy narrative, or argument pieces, etc.

10 Closer looks at the article content would allow filling in the map with topics covered, arguments used, etc. The latter corresponds to the work and approach used spoken of earlier (Sofaer & Stretch, 2012). Table 4 A Map Of The Number And Type Of Publications on Free Will And Agency Since 1983 in TTP Literature Conclusions and Recommendations Systematic review (SR) methods have seen minimal use to date in TPP. That is, the core SR component of literature search reporting does not seem to be found in review articles in key TTP journals. SR Models from the argument based literature in bioethics seem worth considering. The new genre they discuss for research/publication is intriguing. Given the current initial broad scoping SR results, scoping SR might be used in TPP. Full SR, with more extensive searching to address a narrower research question, might also have value in TPP. SR often are pursued by teams, with contributions from subject specialists, methodologists, and librarians. 1. SR should be explored for use in TPP, for scoping and for full SR on topics. 2. Collaborations for work on topics should be investigated.

11 References Anderson, S., Allen, P., Peckham, S., & Goodwin, N. (2008). Asking the right questions: Scoping studies in the commissioning of research on the organisation and delivery of health services. Health Research Policy and Systems, 6, 7. Fehrmann, P. & Sicken, E. (2014). Using Systematic Review Methods for Topics in Philosophical and Theoretical Psychology. Presentation for Midwinter Conference, American Psychological Association Div 24. Glass, G. V. (1981). Meta-analysis in social research. Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage Publications. Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (Eds.). (2012). An introduction to systematic reviews. London: SAGE Higgins, J., & Green, S. (Eds.). (2011). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Version 5.1.0). The Cochrane Collaboration. Retrieved from Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., O Brien, K. K., & others. (2010). Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implementation Science, 5(1), 1 9. McCullough, L. B., Coverdale, J. H., & Chervenak, F. A. (2007). Constructing a Systematic Review for Argument-Based Clinical Ethics Literature: The Example of Concealed Medications. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 32(1), McDougall, R. (2015). Reviewing Literature in Bioethics Research: Increasing Rigour in Non- Systematic Reviews. Bioethics, Sofaer, N., & Strech, D. (2011). Reasons Why Post-Trial Access to Trial Drugs Should, or Need not be Ensured to Research Participants: A Systematic Review. Public Health Ethics, 4(2), Sofaer, N., & Strech, D. (2012). The Need for Systematic Reviews of Reasons. Bioethics, 26(6), Strech, D., & Sofaer, N. (2012). How to write a systematic review of reasons. Journal of Medical Ethics, 38(2),

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