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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Dec;99(6):897-916. doi: 10.1037/a0021431.

Adjusting to death: the effects of mortality salience and self-esteem on psychological well-being, growth motivation, and maladaptive behavior.

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Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105, USA.


This research builds on terror management theory to examine the relationships among self-esteem, death cognition, and psychological adjustment. Self-esteem was measured (Studies 1-2, 4-8) or manipulated (Study 3), and thoughts of death were manipulated (Studies 1-3, 5-8) or measured (Study 4). Subsequently, satisfaction with life (Study 1), subjective vitality (Study 2), meaning in life (Studies 3-5), positive and negative affect (Studies 1, 4, 5), exploration (Study 6), state anxiety (Study 7), and social avoidance (Study 8) were assessed. Death-related cognition (a) decreased satisfaction with life, subjective vitality, meaning in life, and exploration; (b) increased negative affect and state anxiety; and (c) exacerbated social avoidance for individuals with low self-esteem but not for those with high self-esteem. These effects occurred only when death thoughts were outside of focal attention. Parallel effects were found in American (Studies 1-4, 6-8) and Chinese (Study 5) samples.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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