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Athletic performance linked to mortality

In two studies, the results of which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, basketball-playing participants scored more points after being presented with death-related prompts, either direct questions about their own mortality or a more subtle, visual reminder of death.

Researchers say the improved performance is the result of a subconscious effort to boost self-esteem, which is a protective buffer against fear of death, according to psychology’s terror management theory.

“Terror management theory talks about striving for self-esteem and why we want to accomplish things in our lives and be successful,” said UA psychology doctoral student Uri Lifshin, co-lead investigator of the research. “Everybody has their own thing in which they invest that is their legacy and symbolic immortality.”

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