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Leaving a Legacy Does Mortality Salience Prime Pedagogy

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Description: Natural pedagogy theory (Csibra & Gergely, 2011) proposes that humans have mechanisms designed to teach new or complex cultural practices. If this system evolved to pass useful information to one's kin and collaborators, one might expect particular motivation for teaching to emerge when reminded that we will not be around forever to take care of our loved ones. The idea that reminders of mortality will prompt psychological changes--particularly those that give meaning to life and obtain a feeling of symbolic immortality--is at the heart of Terror Management Theory (Becker, 1973; Greenberg et al., 1997). This study investigated whether priming thoughts of morality in parents will increase their teaching and child related thoughts. These thoughts were measured with a novel word stem completion task. A total of 140 parents participated in this experiment and results suggested that following a mortality prime parents were likely to have increased pedagogical thoughts as measure by increased completion of the word stems child and instruct. Although previous research has suggests that participants are more like to complete a child world stem following mortality priming (Fritsche et al., 2007), this is the first study to find results with the more pedagogically minded word instruct. Implications of these results and potential future directions are discussed.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work