Death Anxiety and Creativity

I came across this article written by Eric W. Dolan, that is based off research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, that hypothesized death anxiety can lead to increased creativity. This idea was intriguing because it seemed like there was plenty of truth behind the statement. On a personal note, I can see how this idea can relate to myself and others around me. It is relevant to the phrase “You only live once”, which too often, people use as a reason for doing something borderline stupid where they couldn’t find another viable reason as to why they did what they did. I can hear it now… “I’m decided hurl myself off this cliff, breaking every bone in my body but it doesn’t matter…cuz YOLO!” Accepting that you do live only once, may be good enough reason to “let go” and maybe do something you otherwise would not consider doing.


Granted, hopefully it is legal and doesn’t directly injure or harm anyone, it is a good philosophy for life, especially for those always seeking a thrill. Apart from the physical endeavors people commit when living by the mantra “YOLO”, the idea that awareness of death can increase creativity levels is another way of justifying this way of thinking about life. As stated by Daniel J. Sligte, lead researcher at the University of Amsterdam, “Awareness of death impels one to overcome a fragmentary vision of reality and it arouses wonder and deep thinking.” The awareness of death can lead to profound thought on existence and personal reflection. If people contemplate the idea, it can provides opportunity for better understanding of what someone desires from their own life.


The same thought provoking concept can also help us better adapt to distinguishing what events are life threatening or harmful to our life, allowing us to indicate what is the best route or option in a situation. The researchers from the University of Amsterdam conducted two experiments, “ using animal-naming contests to examine the relationship between death, leaving a legacy, and creativity.” (Eric W. Dolan) In one experiment, “ participants who thought about death and were naming a long-living iguana tended to come up with the most creative names compared to those who were naming a short-living iguana.” (Dolan) Conclusions from the second experiment showed that those thinking of death when naming iguanas, were significantly happier when seeing the process as something that work make others happy. (Dolan) I found that it seems as though, those thinking about death were more appreciative in the process of naming animals, and in some way, found joy in being apart of something that would potentially make someone else happy in the future. This is where the idea of leaving a legacy comes into play.

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting combination of your ideas and the ideas of others…I also think you have a dry wit!
    RUBRIC: some new information on the topic and reflective; attempts to synthesize information and form new meaning; well organized;
    written in a somewhat interesting style and voice; words chosen mostly reflect author’s personality and brings content to life for the most part;
    few errors; some formatting to help make the post easier to read; multimedia adds new information or perspective to post; not categorized or tagged


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