Greed, Death, and Values: From Terror Management to Transcendence Management Theory

Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Impact Factor: 2.52). 04/2004; 30(3):278-92. DOI: 10.1177/0146167203260716
Source: PubMed


Research supporting terror management theory has shown that participants facing their death (via mortality salience) exhibit more greed than do control participants. The present research attempts to distinguish mortality salience from other forms of mortality awareness. Specifically, the authors look to reports of near-death experiences and posttraumatic growth which reveal that many people who nearly die come to view seeking wealth and possession as empty and meaningless. Guided by these reports, a manipulation called death reflection was generated. In Study 1, highly extrinsic participants who experienced death reflection exhibited intrinsic behavior. In Study 2, the manipulation was validated, and in Study 3, death reflection and mortality salience manipulations were compared. Results showed that mortality salience led highly extrinsic participants to manifest greed, whereas death reflection again generated intrinsic, unselfish behavior. The construct of value orientation is discussed along with the contrast between death reflection manipulation and mortality salience.

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Available from: Philip J Cozzolino,
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    • "Another approach could help people overcome the typical tendency to respond to felt insecurity by increasing the relative priority they place on materialistic aspirations. For example, studies have found that some people decrease the relative importance they place on money and wealth after they experience traumatic events (Ring 1984; Tedeschi and Calhoun 2004) or deeply reflect on their own mortality (Cozzolino et al. 2004; Lykins et al. 2007). A better understanding of the factors that help people respond to feelings of insecurity by decreasing, rather than increasing, the relative importance they place on materialistic values might help improve people's well- being. "
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    ABSTRACT: Few studies have examined how changes in materialism relate to changes in well-being; fewer have experimentally manipulated materialism to change well-being. Studies 1, 2, and 3 examined how changes in materialistic aspirations related to changes in well-being, using varying time frames (12 years, 2 years, and 6 months), samples (US young adults and Icelandic adults), and measures of materialism and well-being. Across all three studies, results supported the hypothesis that people’s well-being improves as they place relatively less importance on materialistic goals and values, whereas orienting toward materialistic goals relatively more is associated with decreases in well-being over time. Study 2 additionally demonstrated that this association was mediated by changes in psychological need satisfaction. A fourth, experimental study showed that highly materialistic US adolescents who received an intervention that decreased materialism also experienced increases in self-esteem over the next several months, relative to a control group. Thus, well-being changes as people change their relative focus on materialistic goals.
    Motivation and Emotion 02/2014; 38(1). DOI:10.1007/s11031-013-9371-4 · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    • "However, these authors used an unusual and very elaborate, explicit death reminder , similar to graphic visualisation exercises shown to have differing effects compared to more frequently used MS primes (e.g. Cozzolino et al., 2004). Further, participants in the control condition received a complete absence of the scenario, instead of an aversive control prime (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: Terror management theory (TMT) suggests that people are motivated to distance themselves from death. One way of doing this is to report greater intentions to engage in health-promoting behaviours following increased awareness of mortality, also referred to as a proximal defense. Older adults' comparatively fewer remaining years and greater likelihood of having significant health problems may result in greater intentions to promote health following mortality reminders, but little is known about their proximal defenses and existing results are inconsistent. The current study examined how older (60-89 years) and younger (18-30 years) adults' intentions for future healthy behaviours were influenced by a death reminder (immediately and after a delay) compared to a control condition. Older adults (60-89 years) indicated greater overall intention to engage in healthy behaviours than younger adults (18-30 years). A two-way interaction revealed that regardless of age, participants engaged in proximal defenses immediately following a death reminder by distancing themselves from death via greater healthy intentions. After a period of delay, participants exhibited a reversal of this pattern, indicating lower intention to engage in healthy behaviours in the mortality condition compared to control. Results are discussed from the perspectives of TMT and terror management health model.
    Psychology & Health 11/2013; 29(4). DOI:10.1080/08870446.2013.859258 · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    • "Thus, in the case of MS, donating blood served a functional role of satisfying desires to adhere to cultural expectations. Similarly, research has shown that DR and comparable manipulations that prime a specific, individuated form of death awareness can lead to increased helping, more social cooperation, reductions in greed among those who most desire wealth, and enhanced state gratitude, an emotion that is known to heighten altruistic tendencies (Cozzolino et al., 2004; Cozzolino, Sheldon, Schachtman, & Meyers, 2007; Frias, Watkins, Webber, & Froh, 2011; Niemiec, Cozzolino, Vansteenkiste, & Deci, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this chapter we discuss how individuals can find a personal sense of meaning after confronting their own mortality. We assert that the pursuit of personal meaning can take one of two divergent paths depending on how the individual construes death. Specifically, we predict that thinking about death in an abstract and unspecified manner, in which an individual is able to deny the reality of death, leads to defensive attempts to seek meaning from symbolic sources that are external to the self. Alternatively, we predict that thinking about death in a specific and individuated manner, in which individuals consider their death as an experiential reality, leads to authentic, open, and more intrinsic strivings toward personal meaning. We review empirical evidence in support of these divergent paths of meaning in the context of altruism, creativity, psychological needs, values, and the motivation to pursue (or escape from) freedom.
    The experience of meaning in life: Classical perspectives, emerging themes, and controversies, Edited by Joshua Hicks, Clay Routledge, 06/2013: chapter I Die, Therefore I Am: The Pursuit of Meaning in the Light of Death: pages 31-45; Springer.
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