When death is good for life: considering the positive trajectories of terror management

Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2012 Nov;16(4):303-29. doi: 10.1177/1088868312440046. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


Research derived from terror management theory (TMT) has shown that people's efforts to manage the awareness of death often have deleterious consequences for the individual and society. The present article takes a closer look at the conceptual foundations of TMT and considers some of the more beneficial trajectories of the terror management process. The awareness of mortality can motivate people to enhance their physical health and prioritize growth-oriented goals; live up to positive standards and beliefs; build supportive relationships and encourage the development of peaceful, charitable communities; and foster open-minded and growth-oriented behaviors. The article also tentatively explores the potential enriching impact of direct encounters with death. Overall, the present analysis suggests that although death awareness can, at times, generate negative outcomes, it can also function to move people along more positive trajectories and contribute to the good life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death*
  • Awareness
  • Culture
  • Death
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Goals
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Religion