Proximal and distal defense: A new perspective on unconscious motivation

Tom Pyszczynski, Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Death-related thoughts produce different effects on thought and behavior when they are in current focal attention and when they are on the fringes of consciousness. When such thoughts are conscious, people attempt to either remove them from consciousness or push death into the distant future by distorting their beliefs to logically imply that they have many remaining years to live. When such thoughts are highly accessible but outside current focal attention, people increase efforts to view themselves as persons of value living in a meaningful universe. In this way, awarenss of the inevitability of death produces diverse effects on human thought and behavior that bear little obvious resemblance to the problem of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-160
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2000


  • Defense mechanisms
  • Self-deception
  • Terror management
  • Unconscious processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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