An unscathed past in the face of death : Mortality salience reduces individuals' regrets

Rudert, Selma Carolin and Reutner, Leonie and Walker, Mirella and Greifeneder, Rainer. (2015) An unscathed past in the face of death : Mortality salience reduces individuals' regrets. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 58. pp. 34-41.

PDF - Accepted Version

Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A6338893

Downloads: Statistics Overview


Folk wisdom and popular literature hold that, in the face of death, individuals tend to regret things in their livesthat they have done or failed to do. TerrorManagement Theory (TMT), in contrast, allows for the prediction thatindividuals who are confronted with death try to minimize the experience of regret in order to retain a positiveself-esteem. Three experiments put these competing perspectives to test. Drawing on TMT, we hypothesized andfound that participants primed with their own death regret fewer things than control-group participants. Thispattern of results cannot be attributed to differing types of regrets (Study 1). Furthermore, we provide evidencesuggesting that the effect is not purely a product of cognitive mechanisms such as differing levels of construal(Study 2), cognitive contrast, or deficits (Study 3). Rather, the reported results are best explained in terms of amotivational coping mechanism: When death is salient, individuals strive to bolster as well as protect theirself-esteem and accordingly try to minimize the experience of regret. The results add to our conceptual understandingof regret and TMT, and suggest that a multitude of lifestyle guidebooks need updating.
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Sozial-, Wirtschafts- und Entscheidungspsychologie > Sozialpsychologie (Greifeneder)
UniBasel Contributors:Reutner, Leonie and Walker, Mirella and Greifeneder, Rainer and Rudert, Selma Carolin
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Academic Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:03 Apr 2018 23:48
Deposited On:06 Feb 2015 09:59

Repository Staff Only: item control page