Tales from the crypt: On the role of death in life

Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


An existential psychodynamic theory is presented based on Ernest Becker's claim that self-esteem and cultural worldviews function to ameliorate the anxiety associated with the uniquely human awareness of vulnerability and mortality. Psychological equanimity is hypothesized to require (1) a shared set of beliefs about reality that imbues the universe with stability, meaning, and permanence; (2) standards by which individuals can judge themselves to be of value; and (3) promises of safety and the transcendence of death to those who meet the standards of value. An empirical research program in support of this theory is then described, and the personal and interpersonal implications of these ideas are briefly considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-43
Number of pages35
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Culture
  • Death
  • Prejudice
  • Psychological defenses
  • Religion
  • Self-esteem
  • Socially constructed reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Religious studies


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