Precious time: The role of time and temporal thought in managing death awareness

Andrew A. Abeyta, Taylor A. Nelson, Clay Routledge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Humans have the cognitive capability to comprehend the passage of time. With this temporal understanding comes the awareness that death is inevitable. This chapter discusses the link between temporal consciousness and mortality awareness from the perspective of terror management theory. First, we review evidence that reminders of the passage of time arouse death-related thoughts and that the threat of death motivates people to avoid reminders of the passage of time. Second, we consider the ways in which temporal awareness is implicated in managing the threat of death awareness. Specifically, we review research that people manage the potential for death-related anxiety by structuring time to make its progression feel more certain and purposeful, by engaging in mental time travel to gain a sense that life is meaningful and significant, and by embracing the present to focus on internally rewarding experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Terror Management Theory
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780128118443
ISBN (Print)9780128118450
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Goal pursuit
  • Limited time perspective
  • Mental time travel
  • Mindfulness
  • Nostalgia
  • Structuring time
  • Temporal coherence
  • Terror management theory
  • Time


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