New research suggests that people who dont believe in the existence of a literal afterlife are more likely to strive for symbolic immortality by fusing their identity with their nation. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shed light on the ways that people psychologically manage the terror of death.
At first, we really just set out to test what seemed at the time an intuitive and somewhat simple hypothesis derived from terror management theory: If cultures are or contain our immortality projects, people should be motivated to perceive them as long-lasting, especially when death is salient, said study author Andy Scott of the University of Alberta.
As is often the case with psychological research, it turned out to be more complicated and interesting than we expected. The project ended up being instead about the interplay between incongruent immortality projects.
An initial study of 90 Canadian undergraduate students found evidence that people who strongly identified with their nation increased how long they believed their nation would last after being reminded of death.
Half of the participants were randomly assigned to write about their own death, while the other half wrote about experiencing dental pain. After completing some other psychological assessments, the participants then indicated how long they believed Canada would continue to exist on a continuous scale that ranged from 0 years to 10,000 or more years.
Canadians who strongly identified with their nation increased their cultural longevity estimates by 2,382 years on average after being reminded of their own death.
But when the researchers tried to replicate the findings in a second study with another 116 Canadian undergraduate students, they found no evidence that reminders of death were associated national longevity. This failure prompted exploratory analyses that ultimately led to the critical addition of afterlife belief as a moderator variable in the subsequent studies, the researchers explained.
In four subsequent studies, which included 1,012 American citizens in total, Scott and his colleagues found that the link between reminders of death and beliefs about the longevity of ones nation was dependent on two factors: highly identifying with American culture and not holding strong beliefs in the existence of an afterlife.
In addition, the researchers found that, among those who did not believe in an afterlife, the perceived longevity of the United States was associated with decreased levels of death anxiety.
The main takeaway in my view is that we all seem to have the same need to overcome the finality of death but we meet this need in many different and interesting ways, Scott told PsyPost. Moreover, it appears that people who have a route to literal immortality (a belief in an afterlife) have less motivation to pursue and maintain secular-symbolic avenues to immortality, possibly because they already feel like they have all the immortality they need.
Another (not incompatible) reason this might occur is that many religions teach their adherents that earthly pursuits (i.e., things that will grant you symbolic immortality) dont align with living a religious, sin free life, Scott explained.
But the study like all research includes some caveats.
We only looked at this phenomenon in a North American context and this could (and should, according to the theory) matter in interesting ways; we have little idea what would happen if we ran similar studies in cultures with less separation of church and state, or in cultures with less of a focus on national pride, for example, Scott said.
There is also important work to be done in figuring out whether it is better for ourselves and those around us to strongly cling to one immortality project or to curate a multipronged approach to living on after death. Another related question that has been taken up recently by several labs is what the transition from religious to secular systems of belief involves and how people and societies manage existential concerns during this transition period.
The new research was based on terror management theory, which holds that attempts to manage feelings evoked by the awareness of our own mortality is a strong motivator behind a variety of beliefs and behaviors.
I always appreciate when people point to stuff I can read to learn more about a topic, so Ill end by recommending a couple of books for anyone who found this research intriguing, Scott added. If youre interested in the varieties and history of immortality projects, the bookImmortalityby Stephen Cave (2012) is a great place to start. If you want to learn more about terror management theory, check outThe Worm at the Coreby the originators of the theory (Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski; 2015).
The study, Long live A(me)rica! An examination of the interplay between nationalistic-symbolic immortality striving and belief in life after death, was authored by Andy Scott, Jeff Schimel, and Michael Sharp.
- Lobsters, jellyfish, and the foolish quest for immortality - Big Think - June 20th, 2021
- Can We Really Become Immortals? Voice of Biotecnika - BioTecNika - June 20th, 2021
- Ageing process is unstoppable, finds unprecedented study - The Guardian - June 20th, 2021
- SHARUKO ON SATURDAY : In that moment, Yogis legacy, was sealed - The Herald - June 20th, 2021
- 'IMMORTALITY' from Sam Barlow (Her Story, Telling Lies) Is an FMV Adventure Set to Release in 2022 on PC and More - Touch Arcade - June 15th, 2021
- Her Story and Telling Lies creator reveals new game Immortality - Pocket Gamer - June 15th, 2021
- Hazard, Vertonghen and a stunning Belgium generation running out of time - Football365 - June 15th, 2021
- Whispers of Immortality by T. S. Eliot | Poetry Foundation - June 6th, 2021
- Wordsworths Poetry: Ode: Intimations of Immortality ... - June 6th, 2021
- Why didnt the Eternals help fight Thanos? - The Daily Dot - May 24th, 2021
- Henry Cavill in talks to star in Highlander reboot - WION - May 22nd, 2021
- $100 Disneyland sandwich ranks as one of the worlds most expensive - East Bay Times - May 22nd, 2021
- Josh Taylor eyeing boxing immortality in undisputed Las Vegas clash with Jose Ramirez - Mirror Online - May 20th, 2021
- Josh Taylor expects nastiness towards Jose Ramirez ahead of chance at immortality - The Independent - May 20th, 2021
- Kobe Bryant enters the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Heres how he achieved basketball immortality. | Mike Sielski - The Philadelphia Inquirer - May 20th, 2021
- INTERVIEW: Ram V and Filipe Andrade on Deaths rude awakening in THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR - Comics Beat - May 20th, 2021
- Legendary Comics announces YA imprint - MP3s and NPCs - May 20th, 2021
- William Urban: The perils of publishing - Monmouth Daily Review Atlas - May 20th, 2021
- The anomaly of Jon Bois's '17776' - The Michigan Daily - May 20th, 2021
- Guide to the classics: Shakespeares sonnets an honest account of love and a surprising portal to the man himself - The Conversation AU - May 20th, 2021
- The Nike Giannis Immortality Set To Release In An Essential Black And Volt - Sneaker News - May 9th, 2021
- Michael Schenker on creativity, immortality, and why hell never make peace with Rudolf - Louder - May 9th, 2021
- For Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson, there is immortality in art - Yahoo News - May 9th, 2021
- Shadow and Bone Recap: Now Kiss - Vulture - April 29th, 2021
- Misinformation will prevail | Opinion | dailyitem.com - Sunbury Daily Item - April 29th, 2021
- TFT Set 5 Reckoning Shadow items: Updated stats and best-in-slot - Dot Esports - April 29th, 2021
- Dying for immortality, this artist wants you to dispose of her body - Sydney Morning Herald - April 23rd, 2021
- Opening the Gate to Immortality: 25 years of Satyricon's Nemesis Divina - Invisible Oranges - April 23rd, 2021
- How (not) to be a god The Bowdoin Orient - The Bowdoin Orient - April 23rd, 2021
- The X-Men Are Losing Their Soul, and Nightcrawler Wants to Find It - Gizmodo - April 23rd, 2021
- Artificial Hearts: Could They Be the Key to Immortality? - Interesting Engineering - April 21st, 2021
- Messages of Faith: Resurrection is the answer for immortality - Daily Record-News - April 17th, 2021
- Exploring immortality and the value of life - Bangkok Post - Bangkok Post - April 17th, 2021
- Overwatch players are furious at the worst Experimental patch yet - Dexerto - April 17th, 2021
- 'Tina': The Ultimate Thesis of Why She Deserves Rock Hall Immortality - wmgk.com - March 31st, 2021
- Three top contenders in the fray for Indian Derby - The Hindu - March 31st, 2021
- Immortal Jellyfish, Radiated Tortoise, and More: 11 Ancient Animals Older Than Every Human on Earth - Nature World News - March 31st, 2021
- Keanu Reeves' BRZRKR Can Show Why He'd Be The Perfect MCU Wolverine - Screen Rant - March 31st, 2021
- Daily Recco, March 17: The People in the Trees, battling immortality and immorality - DailyO - March 21st, 2021
- Hulk Crushes the Avengers in Jaw-Dropping New Alex Ross Cover Art - Screen Rant - March 21st, 2021
- Unheard-of//Ensemble probes inner space in Messiaen's Quartet and new works - South Florida Classical Review - March 21st, 2021
- Katrick: The color green and its many meanings - The Newark Advocate - March 21st, 2021
- 10 Comic Book Superpowers That Are Highly Overrated | CBR - CBR - March 21st, 2021
- Millennials on Exhibit at the Russian Museum - The Moscow Times - March 21st, 2021
- Star Wars: How the Great Sith War Changed the Galaxy | CBR - CBR - Comic Book Resources - March 21st, 2021
- Wonder Woman: 10 Facts About The Amazons You Need To Know | CBR - CBR - Comic Book Resources - February 22nd, 2021
- How to achieve immortality and have a food named after you - The Takeout - February 21st, 2021
- How rejecting Inter and Lyon set Andre-Pierre Gignac on his way to Tigres immortality - Squawka - February 10th, 2021
- Marvel Confirms Thanos Can't Be Killed, But Not For The Reason You Think - Screen Rant - February 10th, 2021
- Why Bayern Munich's opponents, Tigres, are taking the Club World Cup seriously, even if Europe is not - DW (English) - February 10th, 2021
- 'The Bitter Comes With The Sweet': Without Death, There Is No Life - WBUR - February 10th, 2021
- Disney Pixar's Soul: how the moviemakers took Plato's view of existence and added a modern twist - The Conversation UK - February 10th, 2021
- Life after death: Woman 'engulfed by light and God' in afterlife vision - Daily Express - February 10th, 2021
- Charles Woodson's Words Prove Just How Special The Hall Of Fame Is - Wolverine Maven - February 10th, 2021
- Cicely, Cloris, and two paths to Hollywood immortality - The Boston Globe - February 2nd, 2021
- Regular Exercise and Lifting Weights Might Be the Key to Immortality - The Great Courses Daily News - February 2nd, 2021
- Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki believes users will create the metaverse - VentureBeat - January 29th, 2021
- Does Matthew Die in 'A Discovery of Witches'? The Vampire's Fate Revealed! - Distractify - January 29th, 2021
- Cyberpunk 2077's Development Was Shorter Than Anyone Realized - CBR - Comic Book Resources - January 19th, 2021
- How Star Wars Could Bring Back A Weapon More Powerful Than The Darksaber - Screen Rant - January 19th, 2021
- How to Fix Some of the Bachelors Thorny Logistical Issues - The Ringer - January 19th, 2021
- JUANITA FLOYD: What testimony will you leave behind? - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - January 17th, 2021
- The Kansas City Chiefs can secure place among NFLs all-time greatest teams - Arrowhead Addict - January 17th, 2021
- Kumbh Mela 2021 dates: Everything you need to know - The Indian Express - January 17th, 2021
- WandaVision Featurette May Be Hiding Another Major Avenger | CBR - CBR - Comic Book Resources - January 17th, 2021
- What happened to Jack on Macgyver? Here is the characters fate in the latest episode - Republic World - January 17th, 2021
- Essenes in Judaean Society: the sectarians of the Dead Sea Scrolls - OUPblog - January 17th, 2021
- 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' and 'Ham on Rye': Odds and ends - People's World - January 17th, 2021
- Lord Of The Rings: 10 Things About Arwen and Aragorn's Relationship That Make No Sense - Screen Rant - January 17th, 2021
- CRYPTOSIS Take You Behind The Scenes Of "Prospect Of Immortality" Music Video - bravewords.com - January 9th, 2021
- Holocaust Memorial Center hosts 'Soap Myth' online reading and discussion - The Detroit News - January 9th, 2021
- Ahead of the national championship, Justin Fields high school coach relives his dominance in Georgia - Saturday Down South - January 9th, 2021
- Inverted tulips, juniper trees added to Iran's national heritage list - Tehran Times - January 9th, 2021
- How are former Yankees doing in the Hall of Fame voting? - Empire Sports Media - January 9th, 2021
- how is the calendar and when are the long weekends in the year - Explica - January 9th, 2021
- Unexpected discovery about stem cell immortality study - News - The University of Sydney - November 29th, 2020
- Dessie Hutchinson's journey from Brighton to the brink of hurling immortality with Waterford - Independent.ie - November 29th, 2020
- MLB Hall of Fame: Breaking down the 2021 ballot - Call to the Pen - November 29th, 2020
- Mythical Beasts that Simply Scream Nanjing - The Nanjinger - November 29th, 2020
- Maradonas divine goal and worthy absurdities - Mint - November 29th, 2020