Pearls in the desert: Death reminders provoke immediate derogation of extrinsic goals, but delayed inflation

Spee Kosloff, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Psychologists and philosophers have argued that explicitly contemplating one's mortality makes extrinsically oriented goal pursuits, such as for wealth and fame, seem unimportant. Research inspired by terror management theory has shown, however, that when thoughts of death are active outside current focal attention, individuals bolster culturally sanctioned standards of self-worth. The present studies thus examined the hypotheses that (a) immediately after explicit reminders of mortality, individuals will trivialize extrinsic goals, but (b) when a delay and distraction follows an explicit mortality reminder, individuals will favorably evaluate extrinsic goals. Consistent with these hypotheses, Studies 1 and 2 showed that, relative to subjects reminded of an aversive control topic, mortality salience led to lower importance ratings for extrinsic goals. Study 2 further showed that, when mortality salience was followed by a distracter task, subjects gave higher importance ratings for a high priority extrinsic goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-203
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

Keywords

  • Extrinsic goals
  • Proximal
  • Symbolic immortality
  • Terror management
  • Trivialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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