Terror management: study finds that thinking about mortality can boost performance.
15:46 07 November 2016
Thinking about impending death pushes people to be more successful, a recent study has found. Researchers introduced the topic of death to recreational basketball players and found that it helped boost their performance resulting in better gameplay and more points scored.
The experiment tap into psychology’s theory of ‘terror management’ that helps humans to cope with the looming inevitability of death rather than living on constant fear. It involved asking participants to answer questionnaires in between each game. Some of these included prompts about death, including: ‘Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you,’ and ‘Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you as you physically die and once you are physically dead.’
Uri Lifshin, from the University of Arizona and co-lead investigator of the research said: ‘Terror management theory talks about striving for self-esteem and why we want to accomplish things in our lives and be successful,’
‘Everybody has their own thing in which they invest that is their legacy and symbolic immortality.
‘Your subconscious tries to find ways to defeat death, to make death not a problem, and the solution is self-esteem.
‘Self-esteem gives you a feeling that you’re part of something bigger, that you have a chance for immortality, that you have meaning, that you’re not just a sack of meat.’