Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Psychology, Clinical-Community

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brian Vandenberg, Ph.D.


Ann Steffen, Ph.D.

Tom Meuser, Ph.D.

Matt Taylor, Ph.D.


Driving retirement, or giving up the keys, is a current topic of interest in the gerontological literature. Most adults will outlive their ability to drive safely, yet do not plan for driving retirement, although planning for driving retirement appears to result in better outcomes. The current study examined the possibility that older adults avoid driving retirement because it is a mortality prime (reminder of death), as well as the possible role of implicit self-esteem in buffering against mortality concerns specifically in an older adult population. Participants in the current study (n=90) were randomly assigned into one of three experimental conditions, and completed measures assessing demographic information and self-report of cognition. They then completed a word puzzle that delivered a mortality prime, driving retirement prime, or control (pain) prime, depending on their experimental condition. Subsequently, participants completed personality and mood assessments as filler measures. They then completed measures of generative concern and implicit self-esteem. It was predicted that participants in the mortality prime conditions and the driving retirement prime conditions would respond equivalently on the generative concern measure and those in the driving retirement prime condition would report significantly higher generative concern than those in the control condition. Further, it was posited that those with higher implicit self-esteem would report less generative concern than those with lower implicit self-esteem. Results did not support that driving retirement is a mortality prime; no significant differences were detected between experimental groups. Results also suggested that implicit self-esteem and generative concern are significantly negatively correlated. Implicit self-esteem was a significant predictor of generative concern; however, this relationship became nonsignificant when other covariates were entered into the regression. These results suggest that implicit self-esteem in older adults may buffer against response to mortality salience (measured by generative concern). This may have implications for future terror management theory research with older adult populations, as well as further research in driving retirement. Further study may use a larger sample to ascertain the possibility of driving retirement as a mortality prime.

OCLC Number