Thinking about Death Reduces Delay Discounting.
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The current study tested competing predictions regarding the effect of mortality salience on delay discounting. One prediction, based on evolutionary considerations, was that reminders of death increase the value of the present. Another prediction, based in part on construal level theory, was that reminders of death increase the value of the future. One-hundred eighteen participants thought about personal mortality or a control topic and then completed an inter-temporal choice task pitting the chance to gain $50 now against increasingly attractive rewards three months later. Consistent with the hypothesis inspired by construal theory, participants in the mortality salience condition traded $50 now for $66.67 in three months, whereas participants in the dental pain salience condition required $72.84 in three months in lieu of $50 now. Thus, participants in the mortality salience condition discounted future monetary gains less than other participants, suggesting that thoughts of death may increase the subjective value of the future.