Creativity and terror management: Evidence that creative activity increases guilt and social projection following mortality salience

Jamie Arndt, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Schimel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

104 Scopus citations


The present research, based on the ideas of O. Rank (1932/1989) and E. Becker (1973), was designed to test the hypotheses that engaging in creative expression after personal mortality has been made salient will lead to both increased feelings of guilt and a desire to enhance social connectedness. In Study 1, the authors used a 2 (mortality salience vs. control) × 2 (creative pretask vs. noncreative pretask) between-subjects factorial design and measured self-report guilt. Results indicated that participants who were reminded of their death and completed the creative pretask expressed more guilt than all other participants. In Study 2 this effect was replicated with a modification of the creativity treatment. In Study 3, the same conditions leading to increased guilt also led mortality-salient creative-task participants to express higher levels of social projection, an index of perceived social connectedness. Implications of these results for creativity, the interpersonal nature of guilt, and terror management theory are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-32
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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