Dealing with Death: On the Consequences of Loss on Relationship Appraisal

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



In this article, I propose and test a dual-process model of threat, which is postulated to have two independent and opposite effects on the way in which one appraises the value of one’s current relationships with other people. In one pathway, activation of the threat triggers negative mood, and this mood then colors one’s appraisals of current relationships in a negative way. In a second and independent pathway, activation of threat triggers a motivational and largely cognitive “buffering” process, which is oriented towards ameliorating this same threat, by bolstering and enriching one’s appraisal of the value of existing relationships. I find support for this model across two different experiments focusing on two different types of threat, including (a) reminding participants of the previous death of someone who was very close to them (Experiment 1), as well as, (b) increasing the salience of participants’ own mortality (Experiment 2). Hence, I obtained support for the proposed model across two distinct types of threat, that differed not only in terms of the direct relevance of the threat to the self, but also temporal orientation (i.e. past vs. future). The present research thus suggests that threat can be seen as a kind of “double edged sword”, in the sense that it is has the potential to increase, as well as decrease, psychological appraisal of one’s existing relations with others.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Alan Lambert


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K75Q4T2C

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