Are you smarter than a cetacean? Death reminders and concerns about human intelligence

Melissa Soenke, Florette Cohen, Jeff Greenberg, Uri Lifshin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Terror management theory and research indicate that humans cope with concerns about mortality by believing we are more than nonhuman animals. The current studies investigated whether this motivation plays a role in believing humans are more intelligent than other animals. Study 1 had participants think about mortality or another unpleasant topic. The study found that after the death reminder, participants had more negative reactions to a scientific article describing dolphins as smarter than humans, but not to an article that merely focused on dolphins' intelligence. Study 2 had participants read an article about dolphins being smarter than humans or an article describing dolphin intelligence without a comparison to humans. Participants then completed a measure that assessed how close to consciousness thoughts of death were. Those who read that dolphins were smarter than humans exhibited higher levels of death-related thought. These results may have important implications for conserving intelligent animal species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-489
Number of pages21
JournalSociety and Animals
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Animals
  • Creatureliness
  • Death
  • Mortality salience
  • Terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Are you smarter than a cetacean? Death reminders and concerns about human intelligence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this