Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive

Amelia Goranson, Ryan S. Ritter, Adam Waytz, Michael I. Norton, Kurt Gray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

In people’s imagination, dying seems dreadful; however, these perceptions may not reflect reality. In two studies, we compared the affective experience of people facing imminent death with that of people imagining imminent death. Study 1 revealed that blog posts of near-death patients with cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were more positive and less negative than the simulated blog posts of nonpatients—and also that the patients’ blog posts became more positive as death neared. Study 2 revealed that the last words of death-row inmates were more positive and less negative than the simulated last words of noninmates—and also that these last words were less negative than poetry written by death-row inmates. Together, these results suggest that the experience of dying—even because of terminal illness or execution—may be more pleasant than one imagines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-999
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Volume28
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

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Keywords

  • LIWC
  • affective forecasting
  • death
  • language
  • open materials
  • positivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Goranson, A., Ritter, R. S., Waytz, A., Norton, M. I., & Gray, K. (2017). Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive. Psychological Science, 28(7), 988-999. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617701186