As we age, life reminds us that we are mortal. We see things die and may have near death experiences. An intensified sense of mortality has a powerful impact on our behavior in both the short and long term. Some argue (terror management theorists) that it goes much further and that most of what we do is driven by a fear of death. No matter what position you take it is hard to deny that how we embrace a sense of mortality strongly shapes major decisions, lifestyle and purpose in life. Important factors in many cognitive design problems so I am always on the lookout for scientific studies that offer insights in how the psychology of mortality is working at a practical level.
Take for example, the recent article in the Journal of Economic Psychology on Money and the Fear of Death. The researchers conducted four experiments that suggest money can help us quell the anxiety caused by our sense or mortality. They argue this effect flows from the symbolic aspects of money and an increased sense of confidence and self-reliance that it brings. In their own words:
“We conclude that, beyond its pragmatic utility, money possesses a strong psychological meaning that helps to buffer existential anxiety.”
If true, this means that money helps us to feel immortal.