College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Winter 3-19-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Second Advisor

Ralph Erber, PhD


Two theories of mortality threat management propose distinct psychological mechanisms to cope with mortality concerns. Terror management theory suggests death prompts existential concern whereas socioemotional selectivity theory suggests a limited lifetime prompts hedonic concerns. Both reminders of the finality of life threaten self-existence, yet only terror management theory research has investigated the capacity for art to reaffirm self-referent meaning compromised by death awareness. In two studies, we explored the potential existential nature within death and limited-lifetime awareness and then examined self-referent meaning reaffirmation through naturalistic and surrealistic art in response to death awareness and limited-lifetime awareness. We found that limited-lifetime awareness does not induce existential concern as in death awareness, but naturalistic art, surrealistic art, and the control condition were evaluated similarly in terms of self-referent meaning across the death awareness, limited-lifetime awareness, and control conditions. These results suggest that although separate mechanisms emerge to cope with death versus limited-lifetime awareness, motivated self-reference is not elicited differently from naturalistic and surrealistic art following mortality awareness of death or a limited lifetime.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons