The Machine in the ghost: A dual process model of defense against conscious and unconscious Death-Related thought

Tom Pyszczynski, Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

15 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION, The proposition that people are often unaware of the forces that lead them to do the things they do is one of the oldest, most widely accepted, but at times most controversial ideas in the history of psychology. Since psychology's inception, the popularity of accounts of behavior that emphasize unconscious motivational forces has waxed and waned. Although virtually all psychologists probably agree that people are typically not aware of all the forces and processes that determine their behavior, the idea that people's thoughts, feelings, and actions are driven by powerful fears and needs of which they are unaware is considerably more contentious. Building on earlier theorizing in existential philosophy and psychoanalytic psychology, Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991) posits that a very deeply rooted fear of death unique to our species motivates a great deal of human behavior. A substantial literature consisting of over 170 separate studies conducted in at least nine different countries has accumulated over the past 15 years, supporting a variety of hypotheses derived from TMT (for reviews, see Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997; Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003). This research demonstrates that thoughts of death affect a broad range of human behavior, but that these effects occur in the absence of consciously experienced affect and occur primarily when death-related thoughts are on the fringes of consciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial Motivation
Subtitle of host publicationConscious and Unconscious Processes
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511735066
ISBN (Print)9780521832540
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The Machine in the ghost: A dual process model of defense against conscious and unconscious Death-Related thought'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this