Study Links Athletic Performance to Mortality

Study Links Athletic Performance to Mortality

UA doctoral students Colin Zestcott and Uri Lifshin conducted two studies showing that athletes are subconsciously motivated by reminders of death.

It's not the locker room pep talk you'd expect, but new research from the University of Arizona suggests that athletes might perform better when reminded of something a bit grim: their impending death.

In two studies, the results of which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, basketball-playing participants scored more points after being presented with death-related prompts, either direct questions about their own mortality or a more subtle, visual reminder of death.

Researchers say the improved performance is the result of a subconscious effort to boost self-esteem, which is a protective buffer against fear of death, according to psychology's terror management theory.

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Published Date: 
11/01/2016 - 09:33