Death's cold grip or helping hand: the effects of mortality salience on goal choice
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Humans live with the knowledge that one day they will die. This understanding, at various levels of conscious awareness, induces a variety of reactive cognitive processes which may lead individuals to choose more meaningful and personally valued goals to pursue. The purpose of this thesis research was to discover whether a mortality salience (MS) induction leads participants to strive for goals that are more self-concordant across three experimental conditions (MS, MS with delay, or control group). In addition, the contents of those goals were analyzed so that both the "what" (goal contents) and the "why" (motivations) of personal goals could be compared across conditions. It was found that the extent to which participants chose self-concordant goals differed by gender such that females chose self-concordant goals regardless of condition while males in the mortality salience with delay condition selected more self-concordant goals to pursue than the other two conditions. Controlling for these gender differences yielded a significant effect of condition such that those in the mortality salience with delay group scored higher on the self-concordance of their goals than both of the other groups. In terms of goal contents, marginally significant differences were found between conditions such that participants in the mortality salience with no delay group reported goals with higher relative intrinsic content, on average than the other two conditions. Further analyses and explorations of these constructs are discussed in the context of relevant theories.