ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (12): 1341-1350.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.01341

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


王鹏1, 王晓田2(), 高娟1,3, 黎夏岚1, 徐静1   

  1. 1 华东师范大学心理与认知科学学院, 上海 200062
    2 香港中文大学人文社科学院, 深圳 518172
    3 上海电机学院, 上海 201306
  • 收稿日期:2019-05-10 出版日期:2019-12-25 发布日期:2019-10-21
  • 通讯作者: 王晓田
  • 基金资助:
    * 国家自然科学基金项目资助(31971025)

Adaptive time management: The effects of death awareness on time perception and intertemporal choice

WANG Peng1, WANG Xiaotian2(), GAO Juan1,3, LI Xialan1, XU Jing1   

  1. 1 School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    2 School of Humanities and Social Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen 518172, China
    3 Shanghai Dianji University, Shanghai 201306, China
  • Received:2019-05-10 Online:2019-12-25 Published:2019-10-21
  • Contact: WANG Xiaotian


死亡意识是个体对自身死亡必然性的认识; 基于进化适应性的考量, 作者认为具有前瞻性的死亡意识作为人类特有的认知能力和个体生命史的终极坐标, 不仅可能引起恐惧感和防御反应, 更重要的是可以帮助人们做出适应性的时间管理。据此推论, 死亡意识的启动会加强人们对时间有限性的关注, 体验出更强的时间流逝感, 影响人们对时间的评估, 以及人们对不同时间点的成本与收益进行权衡而做出的跨期决策。本研究采用死亡凸显范式启动死亡意识, 通过两个实验探讨了死亡意识、时间知觉和跨期决策三者之间的关系。结果发现, 死亡意识启动使被试低估时间距离, 并表现出较低的跨期决策延迟折扣率, 从而在较小的即时获益与更大的延迟的获益之间更为偏好未来导向的选项。进一步的分析显示, 时间知觉在死亡意识和跨期决策延迟折扣率之间起到部分中介变量的作用。以上的研究结果初步揭示了死亡意识在时间管理上的适应性价值。

关键词: 适应性, 时间管理, 死亡意识, 时间知觉, 跨期决策, 延迟折扣


Death awareness refers to thinking about and the recognition of the inevitability of personal death. As a critical component of the human-unique ability of autonoetic consciousness, death awareness can be viewed as a cognitive adaptation for time management. We hypothesize that activating death awareness may affect intertemporal choice, in which people make tradeoffs between rewards across different time points. Such effects of death awareness on intertemporal choice may be mediated by time perception, a subjective assessment of the speed of time passage. In this research, we investigate the impact of death awareness on time perception and intertemporal choice, and the relationships among them.
Study 1 examined the relationship between death awareness and time estimation. Eighty-three college students were randomly assigned to either a death awareness activation group where mortality was made salient to the participants or a control group where the participants imagined their toothache experience. After a word-search distraction task, the participants in both groups completed a time-passage (400ms, 800ms, 1200ms, 1600ms) estimation task. The results showed that the participants in the group of death awareness activation gave significantly shorter estimates than the participants in the control group.
Study 2 (n = 123) extended the measure of time perception to a more extended period and also measured the delay discounting rate of the participants from their intertemporal choices between a smaller-and-sooner reward and a larger-and-later reward. The participants were randomly assigned to either a death awareness activation group or a toothache awareness activation group. The participants then indicated how long ten years was to them by marking on a line with the statement “10 years is very short” on the left end side of the line and the statement “10 years is very long” on the right end side. The participants in the death-awareness activation group marked the line closer to the left end (“life is short”) than those in the control group. As predicted, the participants in the death-awareness activation group had a lower delay discounting rate and were more future-oriented in making intertemporal choices. Moreover, bootstrapping analysis revealed a partial mediation effect of time-passage estimation between death awareness and delay discounting.
In conclusion, death awareness serves adaptive functions in time management. Activating death awareness makes people feel that time passes more quickly and promotes future-oriented decisions.

Key words: adaptation, time management, death awareness, time perception, intertemporal choice, delay discounting