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Mind body dualism and existential concerns

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Jieming Xiao Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology

Terror management theory suggests that the potential for anxiety from the awareness of death can be buffered by a cultural worldview. Mind-body dualism, the belief that the mind and the body are separate, might affect people’s mortality concerns. Given that the body is threatening given its vulnerability to death, individuals who perceive the mind and body as being connected (vs. separate) should experience higher mortality-related thoughts and defense of their cultural beliefs. Mind-body dualist belief also impacts health-related behaviors. Research has found that people who believed more in mind-body dualism were more likely to have more negative health attitudes, and they were more likely to have unhealthy daily habits (e.g., eating and exercising) compared to people who believed in a more overlapped mind-body relationship (Burgmer & Forstmann, 2018; Forstmann et al., 2012). Given that people who believe in mind-body dualism regard the mind as separable from the body, higher mind-body dualism believers may be more likely to endure pain than those who perceive themselves as closely tied to their bodies. Based on these findings, the current research combining two studies investigated a) how mind-body dualism moderated the effect of the creaturely body on death-related concerns, and b) how people may have different pain tolerance levels based on mind-body dualism beliefs. The result of study 1 showed that people who perceived the mind-body relationship as more separate showed significantly fewer death concerns after reading an essay emphasizing the creatureliness of the body, whereas people who held beliefs in a more interrelated mind-body relationship showed heightened death concerns after the creaturely body prime. Study 2 is still collecting data.