Cancer and the Threat of Death: The Cognitive Dynamics of Death Thought Suppression and Its Impact on Behavioral Health Intentions
terror management, health threats, construct accessibility, cancer thoughts, death thoughts, screening intentions, cognitive associations, contemplation, suppression, cognitive load
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Five studies examined the cognitive association between thoughts of cancer and thoughts of death and their implication for screening intentions. Study 1 found that explicit contemplation of cancer did not increase death-thought accessibility. In support of the hypothesis that this reflects suppression of death-related thoughts, Study 2 found that individuals who thought about cancer exhibited elevated death-thought accessibility under high cognitive load, and Study 3 demonstrated that subliminal primes of the word cancer led to increased death-thought accessibility. Study 4 revealed lower levels of death-thought accessibility when perceived vulnerability to cancer was high, once again suggesting suppression of death-related thoughts in response to conscious threats associated with cancer. Study 5 extended the analysis by finding that after cancer salience, high cognitive load, which presumably disrupts suppression of the association between cancer and death, decreased cancer-related self-exam intentions. Theoretical and practical implications for understanding terror management, priming and suppression, and responses to cancer are discussed.
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Citation / Publisher Attribution
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 92, issue 1, p. 12-29
Scholar Commons Citation
Arndt, Jamie; Cook, Alison; Goldenberg, Jamie L.; and Cox, Cathy R., "Cancer and the Threat of Death: The Cognitive Dynamics of Death Thought Suppression and Its Impact on Behavioral Health Intentions" (2007). Psychology Faculty Publications. 1501.