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August 2018

The science of stigma

At a glance
The intern

Danielle Benesch from Universität Osnabrück, Germany

Hosted by

Dr. Eric Racine, Université de Montréal and IRCM (Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal)

The research

A close look at free will in the context of addiction

Canada is in the midst of a crisis. Drug overdose death tolls are rising, and the mounting health care costs of an opioid epidemic have proven that addiction is a multidimensional problem we cannot afford to ignore. Managing the crisis is also affected by public perception. The way we view drug users could significantly affect the way we, as a society, respond to this issue.

The issue has attracted researchers from multiple disciplines, including Danielle Benesch, who is examining how perceptions of free will could impact our response to the overdose crisis. Danielle, a Mitacs intern from the Universität Osnabrück in Germany, has studied free will and decision-making for years. She travelled to Canada this summer to work on a project, supervised by Professor Eric Racine of the Université de Montréal, to research the relationship between perceptions of free will and addiction.  

Their project has two goals: the first is to discover how people with addiction view their own decision-making abilities. The second is to determine what factors cause the general population to attribute free will to someone with addiction. Addressing both questions is an important first step in designing a successful treatment plan. The research team hopes that their inside-out and outside-in method will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities around addiction and public decision making. The team plans to publish a series of papers outlining public and personal perceptions of addiction that will contribute to the ongoing national conversation about the issue.

As for Danielle, she’s excited to be working with such an experienced and multidisciplinary team on a timely and pressing issue. She says, “To spend time thinking, reading and discussing this topic is such a gift. I get to hear the perspectives of sociologists, psychologists, and ethicists. We have input from all these disciplines, so our research has a chance to make a change that really matters.”


Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink research internship program also receives support from the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Saskatchewan, and Research Manitoba. 

In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support the Globalink research internship program: Universities Australia; Brazil's Unidersidade de Sao Paulo; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education and Tecnológico de Monterrey; Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education; Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord; and the Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.