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The Impact of Mortality Salience on Mind Wandering During Reading: A Cognitive Test of Terror Management Theory

Reineberg, Andrew E (2009) The Impact of Mortality Salience on Mind Wandering During Reading: A Cognitive Test of Terror Management Theory. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The effects of mind wandering on normal reading have been explored recently in studies using self-paced reading (Schooler, Reichle, & Halpern, 2004) and eye tracking (Reichle, Reineberg, & Schooler, 2009). These studies demonstrate our propensity to lapse into episodes of mindless reading, but shed little light on its causality. Furthermore, behavioral studies suggest that reminders of death (mortality salience) evoke an evolutionary defense mechanism capable of embracing distractions to eliminate thoughts of death (Pysczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). Thirty participants were primed with either reminders of their own death or reminders of a painful experience. Participants then read a neutral passage while self-reporting episodes of mind wandering and while responding to probes inquiring the status of their level of awareness. It was predicted that participants primed to be mortality salient would be caught by probes and mind wander less frequently due to increased engagement in the text in order to distract themselves from notions of their mortal vulnerability. The results partially confirm these predictions: All participants engaged in mind wandering to a comparable extent. Mortality salience-primed individuals self-reported far fewer instances of mind wandering than individuals who received a control (pain) prime, suggesting that reminders of death affect the ability to realize that mind wandering is happening.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Reineberg, Andrew
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairReichle, Erikreichle@pitt.eduREICHLE
Committee MemberKucinski, Barbarakucinski@pitt.eduKUCINSKI
Committee MemberTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Committee MemberSolomon,
Date: 22 May 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 April 2009
Approval Date: 22 May 2009
Submission Date: 12 May 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Behavioral Sampling; Mind Wandering; Terror Management Theory; Mindless Reading; Self-paced Reading
Other ID:, etd-05122009-130733
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:44
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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