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Colin A. Zestcott, Uri Lifshin, Peter Helm and Jeff Greenberg

This research applied insights from terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) to the world of sport. According to TMT, self-esteem buffers against the potential for death anxiety. Because sport allows people to attain self-esteem, reminders of death may improve performance in sport. In Study 1, a mortality salience induction led to improved performance in a “one-on-one” basketball game. In Study 2, a subtle death prime led to higher scores on a basketball shooting task, which was associated with increased task-related self-esteem. These results may promote our understanding of sport and provide a novel potential way to improve athletic performance.

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Gila Miller and Orit Taubman–Ben-Ari

This study examined, from a Terror Management Theory (TMT) perspective, the effects of death reminders on the tendency to take risks in diving. All participants (N = 124) completed Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale and a diving related self-efficacy questionnaire. Then half of them were exposed to a mortality salience induction and the other half to the control condition. The dependent variable was self-reported intentions to take risks in diving. Findings showed that mortality salience led to greater willingness to take risks in diving vs. control condition, but only among divers with low self-esteem and low diving related self-efficacy. In addition, mortality salience led to less willingness to take risks in diving vs. the control condition only for low self-esteem divers who possessed high diving related self-efficacy. However, no effects were found for high self-esteem persons. The results are discussed in view of the self-enhancing mechanisms proposed by TMT, offering practical implications regarding the need to increase divers’ self-esteem and self-efficacy as a preventive strategy.