Greed, death, and values: from terror management to transcendence management theory

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2004 Mar;30(3):278-92. doi: 10.1177/0146167203260716.

Abstract

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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Attitude*
  • Economics
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Random Allocation
  • Social Values*