Existential underpinnings of approach and avoidance of the physical body

Jamie L. Goldenberg, Spee Kosloff, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In addition to enjoying pleasurable bodily activities, people appear threatened by the physical aspects of the body; they experience anxiety and inhibitions surrounding sex, eating, bodily appearance and functions. Based on terror management theory, we posit that people are dually motivated to approach the life-affirming properties of the physical body, and to avoid the physical or animalistic aspects of the body because of their association with death. This paper summarizes a substantial body of research, consisting of over twenty empirical studies, that identify personality and situational variables that interact with mortality concerns, moderating approach and avoidance attitudes and behaviors with respect to the physical body. We suggest that this dynamic motivation can go far in explaining the often observed ambivalence toward the body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-134
Number of pages8
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Approach/avoidance
  • Mortality salience
  • Physical body
  • Sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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