Yesterday I ran across the following statistic in a back issue of Science:
40%: Boost in performance of college basketball players in back-to-back games who answered questions on how they felt about death in the interim. Players who answered questions about basketball showed no boost.
Following up, I learned that the specific study is rooted in Terror Management Theory. TMT examines mortality salience – a term I just love – by getting test subjects to think about their own transience.
The theory posits that a psychological conflict results between our natural survival imperative and our realization of death’s inevitability. This conflict produces terror, which we strive to mitigate by embracing cultural beliefs, social structures, and symbolic references. These in turn counteract biological inevitability and provide meaning in our lives.
How often do you actively consider you own mortality? Is death a motivating factor in your life?