Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Randolph Arnau

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Bradley Green

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Joye Anestis

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Abstract

Terror management theory postulates that the behavior and beliefs of individuals are influenced on some level by an underlying aversion to death. Mortality salience, the conscious awareness of one’s own impending death, creates behavioral changes in individuals compared to non-mortality salient individuals. These changes in behavior are referred to as distal and proximal defense mechanisms. Relatively little research has investigated mechanisms to buffer effects of mortality salience. Mindfulness refers to a conscious awareness and acceptance of moment-to-moment experiences. By allowing individuals to take a regulated view of difficult situations, mindfulness may attenuate the negative effects of mortality salience. The present study included three conditions: Mindfulness, Mind-Wandering, and Worrying. Individuals in the Mindfulness condition underwent a brief mindfulness induction at the experiment’s outset, while participants in the other two conditions did nothing or underwent a worry induction. All conditions underwent a mortality salience induction immediately after experimental manipulation. A series of measures were used to measure negative affect, distal and proximal defense responses, and trait mindfulness. Statistical analysis revealed significant reduction in the Mindfulness and Mind-Wandering groups, compared with the Worrying group. Negative affect was lower in the Mindfulness group than in the Worrying group after the mortality salience induction. No change in distal defense mechanisms was found. Trait mindfulness correlated with negative affect at multiple time points as well as with proximal defense mechanisms. Results of the present study suggest that brief mindfulness exercises are effective in buffering against negative affect and some defensive responses to mortality salience.

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