Pyszczynski T, Greenberg J.

A large body of psychological research suggests that the fear of death plays an important role in diverse forms of human behavior. This research suggests that cultural beliefs and values, and the self-esteem that people get from living up to those values, serves the important function of managing the potential for anxiety that results from human awareness of the inevitability of death. Given people’s general disinclination to die, it is paradoxical that many object to the use of science and technology to radically extend the human lifespan. Although there are certainly rational reasons to be concerned about the potential side effects of long-term life extension, the vociferousness of some of these objections suggest that this issue arouses deep-seated emotions that might be fueling this opposition. Long-term life extension is likely to challenge both traditional religious and modern scientific conceptions of life that provide people with existential security. If so, this implies that opposition to prolonging life might be rooted, at least in part, in the fear of death and the psychological structures that people use to protect themselves from this fear. This presentation will: 1) provide a broad overview of theory and research regarding the role of death concerns in human allegiance to cultural worldviews, and 2) discuss the interplay between rational and irrational psychological processes likely to promote opposition to long-term life extension research and technology.

Keywords (Optional): 
Fear of death
Terror management theory
cultural worldviews
illusion of objectivity