On the Relationship Between Conscious and Unconscious Death Reminders, Self-esteem, and Self-control

  • Author / Creator
    Faucher, Erik H
  • When thoughts of death become conscious individuals attempt to suppress them, which consumes self-control resources. Once consumed, performance on subsequent tasks requiring self-control tends to suffer. However, terror management theory would predict the exact opposite pattern of performance when a self-control task has relevance for self-esteem. To test this prediction, I conducted a study that exposed participants to mortality salience (MS; vs. control salience) and after a delay had them engage in a self-control task. Prior to completing the self-control task participants were given information that framed the task as self-esteem relevant or not. Results showed that following MS participants performed better on the self-control task when it had implications for self-esteem compared to when it did not. I conducted two subsequent studies to examine whether a subliminal death (SD; or a death reminder below conscious awareness) prime affects self-control in the same fashion as MS (a death reminder that is conscious). I exposed participants in Studies 2 and 3 to a SD prime (vs. a neutral prime) and had them engage in two separate self-control tasks. Consistent with Study 1, prior to completing the self-control tasks participants were given information that framed the tasks as self-esteem relevant or not. Both Studies 2 and 3 showed a main effect of SD on self-control performance. The results from all three studies are interpreted from a self-control resource conservation perspective. Specifically, MS (vs. SD) activates suppression, which depletes self-control resources. Once depleted, individuals conserve their remaining resources for tasks that have implications for self-esteem. However SD keeps resources stocked and leads to greater self-esteem striving. As such, SD can increase self-control when self-control exertion is a means to attain self-esteem. Discussion focuses on the relationship between self-esteem and self-control, and the distinction between a conscious death reminder and a SD reminder.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Schimel, Jeff (Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Fujiwara, Esther (Psychiatry)
    • Noels, Kim (Psychology)
    • Routledge, Clay (Psychology)
    • Passey, Jenn (Psychology)
    • Masuda, Taka (Psychology)