Thoughts of death disrupt foresight: The 'ostrich bias'

Stefania De Vito, M. A. Neroni, Jean-François Bonnefon, Sergio Della Sala, A. Capuozzo, D. Engemann, Maria A. Brandimonte

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

Humans have a predilection for optimistic personal scenarios when thinking of their future. They tend not to project stressful episodes into the future and are inclined to repress the idea of their vulnerability, to an extent that, when explicitly asked to think about their death, they use various cognitive strategies to deny it. In this study, we investigated the specific coping persons can use when required to construct personal future scenarios after imagining their own death. Our participants were asked to describe in details first the moment of their own’s death and then past and future personal events. We observed a selective reduction in specificity, but not in accessibility, of future simulations, whereas past episodes were normally re-constructed in all the conditions. We named this effect the ‘ostrich bias’. We interpreted it as a protective behaviour against future thoughts that could possibly direct toward an inescapable mental threat.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Future thinking


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