Goal shifts following reminders of mortality: Reconciling posttraumatic growth and terror management theory

Emily L.B. Lykins, Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Alyssa J. Averill, Daniel R. Evans, Margaret E. Kemeny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research findings within posttraumatic growth (PTG) and terror management theory (TMT) currently appear contradictory. Following confrontations with mortality, PTG research demonstrates intrinsic goal shifts, whereas TMT suggests extrinsic shifts. The current studies examine factors contributing to these inconsistent results. Study 1 demonstrates that perceived death threat is associated with PTG effects. Study 2 illuminates the importance of duration of death processing. Study 3 demonstrates that existing goal values and duration and type of processing all interact in determining ultimate goal structure, with a match between level of goals and processing producing the most psychologically advantageous outcomes. Although previous research suggests that short-term confrontations with death may lead to defensiveness, the current studies suggest that encountering death over a longer period or in a manner consistent with goal structure may lead individuals to transcend defensiveness and maintain intrinsic goals or become more intrinsically oriented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1088-1099
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2007

Keywords

  • Earthquake
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic goals
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Terror management
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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