Navigation Links
The bright side of death: Awareness of mortality can result in positive behaviors

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Contemplating death doesn't necessarily lead to morose despondency, fear, aggression or other negative behaviors, as previous research has suggested. Following a review of dozens of studies, University of Missouri researchers found that thoughts of mortality can lead to decreased militaristic attitudes, better health decisions, increased altruism and helpfulness, and reduced divorce rates.

"According to terror management theory, people deal with their awareness of mortality by upholding cultural beliefs and seeking to become part of something larger and more enduring than themselves, such as nations or religions," said Jamie Arndt, study co-author and professor of psychological sciences. "Depending on how that manifests itself, positive outcomes can be the result."

For example, in one study American test subjects were reminded of death or a control topic and then either imagined a local catastrophe or were reminded of the global threat of climate change. Their militaristic attitudes toward Iran were then evaluated. After being reminded of death, people who were reminded of climate change were more likely to express lower levels of militarism than those who imagined a local disaster.

"The differences seen in this study resulted from the size of the group with which the test subjects identified," said Ken Vail, lead author and psychology doctoral student. "In both cases, they responded to the awareness of mortality by seeking to protect the relevant groups. When the threat was localized, subjects aggressively defended their local group; but when the threat was globalized, subjects associated themselves with humanity as a whole and became more peaceful and cooperative."

After real catastrophes, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, people's heightened fear and awareness of death had both positive and negative effects.

"Both the news media and researchers tended to focus on the negative reaction to these acts of terrorism, such as violence and discrimination against Muslims, but studies also found that people expressed higher degrees of gratitude, hope, kindness and leadership after 9/11." Vail said. "In another example, after the Oklahoma City bombing, divorce rates went down in surrounding counties. After some stimuli escalates one's awareness of death, the positive reaction is to try to reaffirm that the world has positive aspects as well."

In their personal lives, people also were influenced to make positive choices after their awareness of death was increased. Studies found that conscious thoughts of death can inspire intentions to exercise more. Other studies found that keeping mortality in mind can reduce smoking and increase sunscreen use.

Even subconscious awareness of death can more influenced behavior. In one experiment, passers-by who had recently overheard conversations mentioning the value of helping were more likely to help strangers if they were walking within sight of cemeteries.

"Once we started developing this study we were surprised how much research showed positive outcomes from awareness of mortality," said Arndt. "It seems that people may be just as capable of doing the opposite and 'looking on the bright side of death,' as the Monty Python song says."


Contact: Timothy Wall
University of Missouri-Columbia

Related medicine news :

1. Dentist Gives Advice to Keep Holiday Smiles Bright
2. The future of stem cell applications challenging, bright
3. Bright Side of Paying More at the Pump? Fewer Car Crashes
4. Bright Lights at Night May Raise Diabetes Risk
5. Fulbright Award has UC educator examining health challenges in China
6. Highlighting a Bright Spot in a Down Economy, Career Step to Re-launch Online Healthcare Training Program
7. Bright Green Leadership Partners with TriplePundit to Help Businesses Improve Their Green Marketing Online
8. Epione Reveals a ‘Bright' New Solution for Dull, Sun Damaged Skin
9. CWRU global TB expert receives prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award
10. Rugged High Bright Touch Screen Computer Designed and Tested for the Most Extreme Environments
11. SAFC Hitech(R) Well Positioned for High-Brightness LED Manufacturing Boom With TMG Expansion at Bromborough UK Plant
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/24/2015)... Leamington, ON (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... Innovations with Ed Begley Jr., airing first quarter 2016 via Discovery Channel. Dates and ... laws of the Province, and is in the business of producing and supplying medical ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Salt Lake City, UT (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... according to Forbes Magazine. For a business, it is critical that the first impression ... of a business, they are not likely to buy anything or want to return. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... FL (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... In ... a growing epidemic as deaths from prescription opioids in the United States grew 400 ... cocaine. In 2013 alone, opioids were involved in 37 percent of all fatal drug ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... VA (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... people across the United States to support their local poison centers through donations ... designated as #GivingTuesday: calls it “a day that inspires people to collaborate ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LINCOLN, R.I. (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... why Amica Insurance is sharing safety tips to help protect your family and vehicle. ... traffic crashes around the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Amica is sharing the following safety ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 --> ... eine Lizenz für das Patent über eine neue Hepatitis-B-Behandlung, ... ENS-Lyon innehaben, an Enyo Pharma vergeben haben. ... Leben gerufenen und von Edelris gemeinsam mit seinen Partnern ... Behandlungsziel für HBV identifiziert, und es wurden neue Inhaltsstoffe ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015  Natera, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... testing and the analysis of circulating cell-free ... at the 27 th  Annual Piper Jaffray ... p.m. ET.  Matthew Rabinowitz, Ph.D., CEO of Natera, ... activities and financial outlook.  ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... York , 24. November 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Avery Breathing Pacemaker Systems, ist erfreut, die ... Clinical Consultant bekannt geben zu können. ...   --> Foto - ... (Schweden). Von 1984-1986 war er ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: