Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




The purpose of this study was to determine the primary personifications of death as perceived by college students. One hundred fifteen students from private and public institutions of higher learning were invited to participate in the study. Surveys from one hundred nine were useable. The questionnaire consisted of a demographic survey, factors related to an individual's experience with death and death education, and a research instrument known as the Death Personification Exercise

Of the four pr;..iary personifications, the Macabre (a dark and fearful oeing) and Automaton (an unemotional being) were present most frequently. Out of 109 students, thirty one students described death using terms that were antonyms. This signified ambivalence regarding how death was viewed. Frequency counts of physical and personality characteristics of death were calculated. Subjects described death as being the male gender most frequently (male, n=34; female, n=l; male/female, n=ll; "It," n=ll).

Chi-square was used to determine if personification differed according to gender, race, belief in existence after death, religious affiliation, and declared major or field of study. Findings were statistically nonsignificant except for field of study. Students in health-related fields and the behaviorals science described death more frequently as the Macabre personification. (x -.10.28, df=4, p

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Psychology Commons