Mortality salience biases attention to positive versus negative images among individuals higher in trait self-control. Academic Article uri icon


  • Death is inevitable. One way people cope with awareness of death is to focus on the positive things in life. Consistent with this idea, reminders of personal mortality have been found to increase optimism and tune attention towards positive information. The current research tested the hypothesis that persons higher in trait self-control are especially likely to attend to positive (versus negative) stimuli under mortality salience (MS). Participants completed a measure of trait self-control, contemplated their own mortality or a control topic, and then viewed positive and negative affective images while their gaze patterns were recorded. MS increased the attention to positive (versus negative) images among participants higher in trait self-control, whereas those lower in trait self-control exhibited a non-significant trend in the opposite direction. Thus, participants higher in trait self-control showed a positivity bias after contemplating death, which may help explain why they tend to enjoy more positive outcomes in life.

published proceedings

  • Cogn Emot

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Kelley, N. J., Tang, D., & Schmeichel, B. J

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Kelley, Nicholas J||Tang, David||Schmeichel, Brandon J

publication date

  • April 2014