Symbolic Immortality and the Management of the Terror of Death: The Moderating Role of Attachment Style

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Abstract

Three studies were designed to examine the contribution of R. J. Lifton's (1979) symbolic immortality construct to the management of the terror of death and to investigate whether attachment style may underlie this contribution. Using a sample of 420 Israeli students, Study 1 revealed an inverse correlation between self-reports of symbolic immortality and fear of personal death. This finding was validated in Study 2 (N = 120), which found that high symbolic immortality reduced the effects of a death salience manipulation on the level of punishment given to a social transgressor. Study 3 (N = 270) refined the association between symbolic immortality and fear of death. The inverse correlation found in Study 1 was revealed only among securely attached persons. The discussion emphasizes the interconnectedness between personality, symbolic immortality, and the management of the terror of death.

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