The Worm at the Core

By Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski

Book cover of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

Book description

Proof of a ground-breaking psychological theory: that the fear of death is the hidden motive behind almost everything we do.

'A joy ... The Worm at the Core asks how humans can learn to live happily while being intelligently aware of our impending doom, how knowledge of death affects the…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Worm at the Core as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Solomon et al experienced eureka moments similar to my own when they read Ernest Becker as young social psychologists in the 1980s.

Combining their research efforts, they set out to provide “hard” empirical evidence that would support Becker’s cultural thesis. In the process, they developed what eventually became known as “Terror Management Theory” (TMT).

This went on to become one of the biggest influences on social psychology since Leon Festinger’s 1950s work on cognitive dissonance, enjoying perhaps its greatest notoriety in the first few years after 9/11.

The Worm at the Core is an excellent “one-stop shopping” choice as a…

I remember reading a review of The Worm at the Core and buying it the same day. With wide-ranging and eye-opening evidence, this fascinating book demonstrates how the fear of death guides our thoughts and actions. Whereas psychological studies can be at times focused on rather narrow problem areas, The Worm at the Core presents an ambitious theory about the hidden motivations of our decisions and how they surreptitiously relate to the fear of death. It also shows that the ways people try to live meaningful lives are as diverse as people themselves: while some focus on their children who…

From Benjamin's list on why people write books.

In the face of abject terror that was put in place by evolution and exacerbated by culture, nothing is quite as calming as facts and science. These psychologists spent three decades testing the various ways people reacted when given a reminder of their own mortality, and they were startlingly uniform. For example, when given a death reminder people are more likely to give in to prejudice, to vote for ‘charismatic’ leaders, to have the urge to shop or place a higher value on material goods, and become more defensive of their cultural symbols. 

For me, it’s incredibly comforting to realise…

From Erica's list on to deal with general death anxiety.

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