The Thrust of the Problem: Bodily Inhibitions and Guilt as a Function of Mortality Salience and Neuroticism


  • We would like to thank Teresa Shackelford for serving as the experimenter in this study.

should be addressed to Jamie Goldenberg, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Ave, PCD 4118G, Tampa, FL 33620-7200. E-mail:


ABSTRACT We argue that existential concerns underlie discomfort with the physicality of the body and that activities likely to make individuals aware of their physical body (e.g., sex, dancing) may be inhibited and cause guilt. Further, individuals high in neuroticism may be especially vulnerable to such difficulties. To test this, individuals high and low in neuroticism were primed with thoughts about their mortality or a control topic and then engaged in an exercise designed to promote body awareness before self-reporting guilt. A comparison group engaged in non-body-oriented behavior. The results revealed that high neuroticism participants inhibited their body-oriented behavior when mortality was salient and that they experienced a marginal increase in guilt after performing the behavior in conjunction with mortality salience. Discussion focuses on the relationship between neuroticism, mortality salience, inhibition surrounding the body, and guilt.