Taste After Death

Is Candy Sweeter After Mortality Salience?

  • Lauren Caldwell Fort Lewis College


Terror Management Theory (TMT) postulates that humans use a variety of strategies in order to mollify and buffer our unconscious death anxiety (Burke, Martens, & Faucher, 2010). Food, specifically sweet items, have been proven to manage the terror of mortality salience, or at least blunt the usual behavioral responses following a reminder of one’s death. In this study, proximal (immediate) defenses of mortality salience were tested through the use of a writing prompt and tasting candy samples. Participants either wrote about the feelings that arise when they consider their own death or about their next stressful exam. Following this, they sampled three types of candy: gummy, chocolate, or sour candy. We found no significant difference between candy preference; however, certain subgroups (women and freshmen) showed different rates of first-choice candies following death reminders. This study can provide further groundwork for other studies like it, exploring proximal defenses of mortality salience more in depth.

Faculty Mentor: Brian L. Burke

Apr 5, 2018
Social Sciences