- Oxford Library of Psychology
- Short Contents
- Oxford Library of Psychology
- About the Editor
- Motivation and the Organization of Human Behavior: Three Reasons for the Reemergence of a Field
- Social Cognitive Theory and Motivation
- Cybernetic Control Processes and the Self-Regulation of Behavior
- The Role of Death in Life: Existential Aspects of Human Motivation
- Too Much of a Good Thing? Trade-offs in Promotion and Prevention Focus
- Motivation, Personality, and Development Within Embedded Social Contexts: An Overview of Self-Determination Theory
- Ego Depletion: Theory and Evidence
- Implicit–Explicit Motive Congruence
- Curiosity and Motivation
- Interest and Its Development
- Achievement Goals
- Goal Pursuit
- Unconscious Goal Pursuit: Nonconscious Goal Regulation and Motivation
- The Motivational Complexity of Choosing: A Review of Theory and Research
- On Gains and Losses, Means and Ends: Goal Orientation and Goal Focus Across Adulthood
- Self-Enhancement and Self-Protection Motives
- The Gendered Body Project: Motivational Components of Objectification Theory
- Relatedness Between Children and Parents: Implications for Motivation
- Avoiding the Pitfalls and Approaching the Promises of Close Relationships
- Neuroscience and Human Motivation
- Evolved Individual Differences in Human Motivation
- Moods of Energy and Tension That Motivate
- Effort Intensity: Some Insights From the Cardiovascular System
- Motivation in Psychotherapy
- Motivation in Education
- Advances in Motivation in Exercise and Physical Activity
- Work Motivation: Directing, Energizing, and Maintaining Effort (and Research)
- Youth Motivation and Participation in Sport and Physical Activity
- Through a Fly's Eye: Multiple Yet Overlapping Perspectives on Future Directions for Human Motivation Research
Abstract and Keywords
The capacity for self-reflection, which plays an important role in human self-regulation, also leads people to become aware of the limitations of their existence. Awareness of the conflict between one's desires (e.g., to live) and the limitations of existence (e.g., the inevitability of death) creates the potential for existential anxiety. In this chapter, we review how this anxiety affects human motivation and behavior in a variety of life domains. Terror management theory and research suggest that transcending death and protecting oneself against existential anxiety are potent needs. This protection is provided by an anxiety-buffering system, which imbues people with a sense of meaning and value that function to shield them against these concerns. We review evidence of how the buffering system protects against existential anxiety in four dimensions of existence: the physical, personal, social, and spiritual domains. Because self-awareness is a prerequisite for existential anxiety, escaping self-awareness can also be an effective way to obviate the problem of existence. After elaborating on how existential anxiety can motivate escape from self-awareness, we conclude the chapter with a discussion of remaining issues and directions for future research and theory development.
Pelin Kesebir, Psychology Department, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Tom Pyszczynski, Psychology Department, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
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