Thinking of death and remembering living things: mortality salience and the animacy effect
The animacy effect, the finding that animate items are better remembered than inanimate items, provides evidence that human memory prioritizes information that is related to survival. Various proximate mechanisms for this memory effect have been proposed, including mortality salience, that humans are more likely to remember information related to death, and animate items (e.g., , ) are more likely to elicit thoughts of death than inanimate items (e.g., , ). Mortality salience was manipulated in Experiment 1. Animate items were recalled more than inanimate items and threatening items were recalled more than nonthreatening items, but there was no significant effect of mortality salience. For Experiment 2, norming data were collected rating the word stimuli from the previous experiment on the characteristics of arousal, valence, likelihood to capture attention, and likelihood to elicit thoughts of death. These ratings along with threat ratings and animacy status of the items were included in a regression analysis with the frequency of recall of the items in Experiment 1. In addition to animacy, likelihood to capture attention and likelihood to elicit thoughts of death were significant predictors of recall, suggesting that these characteristics could be at least partly responsible for the animacy effect.
Memory (Hove, England)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Leding, Juliana K., "Thinking of death and remembering living things: mortality salience and the animacy effect" (2022). UNF Faculty Research and Scholarship. 3167.