The association between vivid thoughts of death and authenticity
Many theoretical perspectives link death-related thoughts to authenticity; however, there is little empirical research directly examining this association. The current studies examined how recalling a vivid experience associated with mortality relates to outcomes indicative of authentic engagement. In Study 1, participants described an experience that made them think about their mortality, indicated how vivid their recollection was, and completed measures of authenticity and goal-pursuit. Results indicated that how vividly a mortality experience was recalled predicted greater authenticity and more important goal-pursuits. Study 2 replicated many of the findings and found a similar pattern when individuals vividly recalled a mortality experience of a close other. Study 3 again replicated these results after controlling for a host of death-related variables. Exploratory analyses further revealed that ruminating about death was often negatively associated with authenticity. Implications for the role of death-related thoughts in authentic and alienated becoming are discussed.