Manner of Death Impacts the Death Effect in Literary Evaluation


  • Joseph P. Green Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University at Lima
  • Daniel F. Blosser Samaritan Behavioral Health, Elizabeth Place



death effect, literary evaluation, mortality salience


The existence of a death effect—that the value of a creative work tends to increase after the creator has died—in literary evaluation was demonstrated. To replicate and extend previous findings, (N = 408) university students were asked to imagine being an art collector potentially interested in purchasing a short story. The status of the author varied from still being alive to having died from a car accident, suicide, or heart attack. Consistent with earlier work, students, when informed that the author was dead, offered to pay more money (81% more, on average) to purchase the story relative to students informed that the author was alive. Unique to this investigation, students offered the most money when told that the author died from a car accident. Priming students about death and dying boosted valuations. Unlike earlier work, subjective impressions about the author and the story were not affected by these manipulations. Mortality awareness and the relatability of the manner of death enhanced the desire for a perceived-to-be scarce product, in this case a creative literary work from a dead author.