Psychology 280 March 11, 2008 Death “You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals.” Seneca, On the Shortness of Life I. Perceived risk – Although we know pretty well what sorts of hazards pose greater and lesser risks of death, some of our assessments of risk are miscalibrated, and systematically so. 1. Cognitive determinants: Highly accessible instances make some hazards seem particularly likely and the ready availability of conditions that are prevalent in non-fatal form make those conditions seem less hazardous 2. Emotional determinants: Characteristics of a hazard that elicit strong negative emotions can enhance the perceived likelihood of those hazards II. Terror Management Theory — The knowledge of our own inevitable deaths can produce immobilizing terror, and people have developed a variety of psychological defenses to ward off or deal with that terror i. belief in an afterlife; “distancing” from our corporeal selves ii. even for those who believe in an afterlife, the belief can be subject to some
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