Death, life, scarcity, and value: an alternative perspective on the meaning of death. Academic Article uri icon


  • That the scarcity of objects enhances their value is a widely known principle in the behavioral sciences. In addition, research has demonstrated that attaching high value to an object produces biased perceptions of its scarcity. Three studies applied this bidirectional link between scarcity and value to the meaning of death, testing the prediction that death represents the scarcity of life. In Study 1, reminders of death led to enhanced evaluations of life. In Studies 2 and 3, the monetary (Study 2) and psychological (Study 3) value of life were manipulated. In both studies, when human life was highly valuable, the concept of death was more accessible, as predicted from the association between value and scarcity. Previous theoretical treatments of the meaning of death have shared the notion that death is essentially a threat requiring psychological defenses. The present results suggest that, from an informational perspective, death represents the scarcity of life.

published proceedings

  • Psychol Sci

altmetric score

  • 293.32

author list (cited authors)

  • King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., & Abdelkhalik, J.

citation count

  • 56

complete list of authors

  • King, Laura A||Hicks, Joshua A||Abdelkhalik, Justin

publication date

  • December 2009