Living Authentically in the Face of Death: Predictors of Autonomous Motivation Among Individuals Exposed to Chronic Mortality Cues Compared to a Matched Community Sample

Publication Name

Omega (United States)


Despite research demonstrating positive outcomes of conscious death reflection, very little research directly examines a core proposition of existential psychologists—that death reflection provides an opportunity for more authentic living. The current study compared individuals chronically exposed to genuine mortality cues (funeral/cemetery workers, n = 107) to a matched control sample (n = 121) on autonomous motivation. It also assessed the moderating role of six constructs implicated in growth-oriented processing of death reflection: psychological flexibility, curiosity, neutral death acceptance, death anxiety, approach-oriented coping, and avoidant coping. Funeral/cemetery workers were significantly higher on autonomous motivation, and death-related work was found to have a more positive association with autonomous motivation for those higher on flexibility and lower on death anxiety. This has implications for both understanding which individuals are most likely to experience growth motivations when confronting death, and potential avenues for facilitating these motivations to enhance well-being.

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