Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 375–388 | Cite as

Praising the dead: On the motivational tendency and psychological function of eulogizing the deceased

  • Joseph HayesEmail author
Original Paper


This research presents evidence for a pervasive motivational tendency to praise and idealize the deceased, which functions to mitigate death-related distress. In Study 1, participants were asked to recall a close (vs. distant) other and to imagine that this target person has recently died (vs. not). The subsequent descriptions and evaluations of the target were significantly more positive and less negative after imagining that the target had died. These effects were observed regardless of whether the target was a close or distant other. Study 2 replicated this finding, and provided additional evidence for the pervasiveness of these effects by showing that participants evince the same motivational tendency regardless of whether the target is liked or disliked. Study 3 provided evidence for the psychological function of this tendency by examining death-thought accessibility (DTA) following the manipulations. Results showed that praising a close other (but not a disliked other) after imagining that they have died reduced DTA. Discussion is focused on the psychological functions of eulogies, and applications for understanding the bereavement process.


Death Idealization Eulogy Bereavement Terror management theory 



The author would like to thank Agnieszka Hayes for her research assistance in coding the open-ended descriptions provided by participants in Studies 1 and 2.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in these studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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