Title of Project

Death Related Thoughts: A Mortality Salience Study

Project Type

Event

Start Date

6-4-2018 12:00 AM

End Date

6-4-2018 12:00 AM

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Apr 6th, 12:00 AM Apr 6th, 12:00 AM

Death Related Thoughts: A Mortality Salience Study

Being conscious of one’s inescapable death is a fundamental attribute of humankind; it is what separatesus from other species. Salience of our own mortality motivates individuals to behave in ways matching accepted cultural standards (Landau et al., 2004). Since mortality salience usually arouses anxiety, it has been suggested that individuals either suppress death-related thoughts following reminders of mortality or individuals increase thoughts not related to death to distract from death-related thoughts (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). To date, no study has tested this hypothesis. To examine this hypothesis, the current study randomly assigned participants to a mortality salience, negative life event, or control condition. Participants completed a writing task based on condition. Participants in the control condition wrote about the prior day, participants in the negative condition wrote a negative life event, and participants in the mortality condition wrote about what they thought would happen to them during death. Following the writing task, participants completed a sustained attention task (SART) with thought probes to assess the content of their current thoughts and a word stem completion task. In contrast expected results, no differences were found between the three groups on measures of mind wandering or the word stem completion task. A significant difference between groups was observed on non-target SART trials, F (2, 87) = 3.23, p < .05, partial η 2 = .069, such that performance was highest in the mortality condition. The current results fail to support prior hypotheses that mortality salience alters death thought accessibility.