Self-Regulatory Processes Defend Against the Threat of Death: Effects of Self-Control Depletion and Trait Self-Control on Thoughts and Fears of Dying Academic Article uri icon


  • Nine studies (N = 979) demonstrated that managing the threat of death requires self-regulation. Both trait and state self-control ability moderated the degree to which people experienced death-related thought and anxiety. Participants high (vs. low) in self-control generated fewer death-related thoughts after being primed with death, reported less death anxiety, were less likely to perceive death-related themes in ambiguous scenes, and reacted with less worldview defense when mortality was made salient. Further, coping with thoughts of death led to self-regulatory fatigue. After writing about death versus a control topic, participants performed worse on several measures of self-regulation that were irrelevant to death. These results suggest that self-regulation is a key intrapsychic mechanism for alleviating troublesome thoughts and feelings about mortality.

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Gailliot, M. T., Schmeichel, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F.

citation count

  • 238

publication date

  • January 2006