Differentiating the effects of self-control and self-esteem on reactions to mortality salience

Matthew T. Gailliot*, Brandon J. Schmeichel, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Whereas many previous studies suggest that self-esteem may buffer against the psychological threat of death, recent research has begun to suggest that self-control also may serve as a buffer. Two studies examined the possibility that dispositional self-control uniquely predicts responses to mortality salience, above and beyond self-esteem. In Study 1, an initial exercise in emotion regulation increased subsequent accessibility of death thoughts. In Study 2, mortality salience increased worldview defense. Both of these effects were moderated by dispositional self-control, such that the effects occurred among participants with low but not high self-control. More importantly, these moderating effects were observed over and above the moderating effects of self-esteem. Findings suggest that self-control may serve as an important and unique buffer against thoughts of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)894-901
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Ego depletion
  • Mortality salience
  • Self-control
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-regulation
  • Terror Management
  • Thought suppression
  • Worldview defense

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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