PSYCH 218 - Psychology of Death and Dying

PSYCH 218 - Fall 2015 - University of Waterloo

Dr. Christopher T. Burris

3 multiple choice tests.

Lecture 1: September 16, 2015

Death is everywhere. If you don't know someone who's died, you will. Yourself.Everything affects how we think about death and dying. We're going to end the course at the individual level.

The Animate Level

Classifying "Free Associations". Asked people:

What comes to mind when you think of death? When you think of dying? Range of Free Associations?

The Animate Level: Two "pre-psychological" questions

1) What is Life?

We are going to define it as: LIFE = evidence of metabolism (in biological, metabolic terms)

2) What is Death?

Answer Problem
absence of life? Rocks: were rocks ever alive? They were never alive, but they're not dead. Need distinction between dead and non-living.
cessation of life? Cardiac arrest. Ressuscitation. Mostly dead is not the same thing as dead dead.

Thus, DEATH = irreversible, permanent cessation of life (This is the biological definition.) At the sub-organismic level (tissues, organs), they're viable for a lot longer (up to 72 hours). It suggest that from a biological standpoint, death and dying is a proess. It happens at higher levels, and then lower levels, and lower levels.

General Principles

This is from your average human being that's been around tens of thousands of years with the sensory equipment they've had available and not from a high-tech perspective, but a human, eye-balling perspective.

  1. Life feeds off life - (without the assistance of technology) They see life as a closed system. For something to live, something else has to die or give up itself. I need to eat so I either need to take plant material or kill an animal. Parasite - I'm going to keep myself alive by sucking life out of you.
    A vampire is a mythological representation of the undead (metabolically challenged).
    Blood sacrifice - need to kill something for the god to take nourishment.
    Interdependency between life and death.
  2. Death presupposes life (death depends on life) - temporal sequence. If something was dead, by definition, it was once alive. Life has to cease for something to be dead. Dead squirrel. We can watch its process. Eventually there's not gonna be much there. At some point, it's going to lose its squirrel-ness. It ceases to be a dead squirrel and it becomes non-living matter perceptually. Possible that we are inhaling dead squirrel molecules. But that's not how we experience it. Squirrel fragment over here, Rat turd coming our way. Those things are only threatning when we identify it, only when we can see the dead squirrel molecule. Psychologically, we don't feel threatened. It loses its identifiability as a squirrel.Dead squirrel
  3. Death presupposes identifiability (death depends on it being identifiable) - In order for something to die, it has to have form and be recognizable. The moment it dies, it can no longer metabolically maintain that form. That form begins to break down. We're no longer dealing with it as a dead-something, it is a non-living matter. If you don't know it's someone's cremated remains, you'll just think it's ash. How it's identified affects how we react to something.Not enough that they're physically dead, I have to wipe out any reminder of them. They must not be identifiable.
Squirrel. Squirrels feed off of other life to survive. They die. They were once alive. They were once identifiable. You can see that it is dead because it is no longer living. You can see that it is dead because you know it was a once-alive squirrel. When it becomes a stain in the road, barely recognizable, someone who never knew it was a squirrel, will not think it is something that is dead. It's just a dark spot in the road. Who knows what it is.

loss of function → loss of form

When is (human) death?

Indicator Problem
cardiopulmonary/clinical - heart stopped, breathing stopped. Reversibility (CPR). It's mostly dead, not dead dead.
brain death Cortical (outer covering of brain - personality, memories) or sub-cortical (brain stem, primitive functions - respiration, heart beat)? What if an individual has experienced a significant enough impact that the person you knew is never going to come back? What if the brain stem is still in tact? Depending on how poeple define what human life/death is, it has an impact on the ethics on whether this individual should be kept alive. Euthanasia. Differences of opinion here.
putrefaction (decomposition) - stink If you wait till putrefaction, organ harvesting is impractical.
Human Death

Why should we care?

How do we die?

Unnatural - more likely to have a human element. They seem to capture our attention more. That ain't right.

Ambiguities and limitations: willful "unnatural" behaviours, different reactions to same "cause"

Lung cancer due to smoking (or eating too much pie). It's a disease, but resarch is pretty clear that the condition can be worsened by willfully engaging in a longterm pattern of behaviour. There's a significant human element involved in the percipitation of that disease. Is that natural or unnatural? What if they were fully aware of the risk? To what degree is that suicidal behaviour?Same cause of death and the different reactions from different individuals. Both died of heart failure. Person 1 - done whatever they could in this long process, but still died. Person 2 - One sunny afternoon, heart failure. We need to add a second dimension.

Add the Expected/Unexpected Dimension

Positive Negative
Expected preparation (best case scenario) - if you can see this death coming, you can start to prepare the story. You can start the grieving process early. It won't hit you as hard once the event actually occurs. fatigue (worst-case scenario) - caregivers for the dying. Chronic substance abuser, abusing alcohol for 40 years and having complications, depressed, in and out of hospital. The survivors, family members, don't know what to do. Okay, they're alive another day. Tiring process. May silently wish for the person to die.
Unexpected ignorance - We spent today like everyday just doing what we're doing. It was agonizing. Things were as normal as possible as long as possible. We were happy. At least up to that moment, we were okay. unfinished business - Didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Maybe some dumbass fight. Game over. Have to make amends without the person physically present. Not going to be the same as dealing with them alive.
2x2 Model

Lecture 2: September 23, 2015

The Species Level

How similar do you think humans and non-human species are?

1) How can we know about death-related experiences in other species? 2) What do we know about death-related experience in other species? Koko and Michael - Michael was the other gorilla. BFFs for 20-something years. They painted. Asked to paint love.
Michael died very suddenly.
3) What (if anything) makes humans unique? 4) "Human Condition" versus "Pure I" => Existential Dissonance (ExD)

Limitations are indisputable, but when we turn down the volume on that, and we experience consciousness as consciousness so it feels like Pure I. It's about how it feels, not what people believe. Have you ever felt like you've always existed? Which one's true? Both? Either? Beither? You're either eternal or limited, right? We may have experienced one or the other at different times in our life. [Cognitive Dissonance]. Is this complete madness? Mirror → increased desire for "Pure I" experience (Burris & Lai). Turn up the heat to lessen the dissonance - put poeple in front of the mirror. They become more self-conscious, more reflective. They become more aware of the fact that they're in the body. It reminds them of their human condition. Fill out questionnaire with mirror turned around or facing them. Present people with a list of experiences. How much would you be motivated to have the experience like that? People with the mirror condition want the Pure I experience, that I'm temporarily escaping the human condition. "Pure I" experience → "Crash" back into body → increased motivation to escape body through "us". Try to induce the Pure I experience. Some people talked about floating and stuff, from brain stimulation. People started feeling more timeless. Measured how people feel trapped. "Pure I" felt more trapped into their body after. Religious mystics - spiritual transcendence, it goes away, they crash. Being back in a body doesn't just suck, it really sucks. People who crashed back into body, showed more motivation to scape body through us. Escaping body through relationships.
[ME] [Us[Me]]
I am me. If you find a special friend. Me can be embedded into Us - Me becomes less of a focused attention, less likely to define the limits of the self in the limits of the skin. Especially motivated to keep relationship because I don't want to be existentially smothered. I will smother you so I will not smother myself.
"Pure I" history + mirror → less condemnation of possible suicide. Put in front of mirror, read a story about a guy experiencing problems in his life. He took too much meds, wasn't suicidal. He didn't care, could have cared. Pure I History + Mirror → less condemning and more sympathetic of this guy. Why? Because he got out. He got out of the body.

5) Death, "Terror," & Existential Dissonance

Terror Management - We're humans with capacity of abstract thought. We can see that we will die. That freaks us out. We try to manage that terror. Culture says if you do stuff so you can cheat death.

Some think it's all about death. 6 degrees to the Grimm Reaper (Kevin Bacon).

Terror Management Theory (TMT) - reduce terror by "escaping" death"

Existential Dissonance (ExD) - reduce dissonance by "escaping" the body

But... Conception and Death can produce similar effects. Reflect on death vs. reflect on conception. Death and afterlife, birth and prelife.

TMT: conception → body → death → terror?

Burris and Sani - Write about what you think about these things. Sea monkeys - death-life state. Think about life or death, but not about themselves. There is a multiple process going on.
Death Conception Sea Monkeys (neutral - are they dead? alive? neither? both?)
symbolic imortality 5.36 = 5.51 = 5.40
literal immortality - I had a near death experience without being dead. I know that death is not the end. That I will live on. How much would you like to have an experience like this? 4.33 > I'm more interested in having this condition 3.78 = Didn't have that affect. 3.64
"Pure I" - I had this experience. I went out of my body, it became irrelevant. I had no idea of whether I would survive death. All I know is that I'm in a body, but I'm not a body. No implication of an afterlife. No immortality guarantee. 4.13 = Increases people's desire to have a Pure I experience. 4.00 > 3.38
"angst" - They want assureance that thye will continue on in some way. 2.89 > 2.39 = 2.03

Death → escape "terror"? Yes

Death OR Concepton → escape body? YES.

ExD and "Little Deaths"

TM focuses on big deaths - as the end of existence. Little deaths - any kinds of losses. Loss of identity markers.

history of Pure I experiences → ExD

ExD → motivation to "escape the body" → external "identity markers" = possessions, relationships, group memberships

They tend to be very invested in identity markers. More interested in going on vision quests and telling stories about their treasured possessions, focussing on their group memberships, geneologies. Because those are identity markers that also help you get out of the body. If I invest myself in a treasured possession, thats a part outside of my body. Geneology can help me transcend my individuality. Escape individuality, escape body. Objects allows them to transcend these limits.

Why do people fight over identity markers? Identity markers are ways that we can escape our physicality anad associated limitations. HORCRUXES

Lecture 3: September 30, 2015

Historical/Cultural Level

    Cultural death experiences: Recurring components.
  1. Identity Markersname, posessions, images, body itself.
    Extensions of the self - places, posessions, relationships, ... The deed person's name, images of the diseased person, dead person's posessions, the body itself. All things that are linked to the identity of the person.
  2. SpaceThe broader physical environment. Movement & "sacred space" (setting apart, dealing with this differently).
  3. Elementsearth, water, fire, air. Many rituals are using a pre-scientific understanding of the world around us.
  4. Soundmusic, rhythm, chants, noise.
  5. "Not Dead" Activitieseating, drinking, gaming, killing.
  6. StorytellingA certian narrative with the event of the death of someone. Eulogy, myth (origin of who we are, what are destination is), instruction (what can we learn).
    Function (A grand function of every one of these components): Differentiation of dead from living. Separating out the dead. Acknowledging waht is a biological/spiritual/metaphysical event. Certify the fact that there's been a change to this person's status.
  1. Identity Markersnot invoke prescence. Name: not speak their name, if you speak ther name, you invoke their prescence. By not speaking their name, you ensure that there's a cosmic restraining order between you and the diseased. Posessions: important to bury individual's posessions so that they have everything they need. Don't want them to feel like they forgot something and come back and haunt you. Memorials. Trophy (serial killers - keep an ear). Sometimes completely eliminate the body because you want their identity to disappear (hatred - bonus round differentiation).
  2. SpaceRelocation, portals, protection. Being dead involves moving. Relocation: they go some other place that's away from us. Portals: barriers or passage ways in between these worlds/dimensions. Need to protect ourselves if their are doors.
  3. ElementsSeparation, dissipation. Buried under soil or buried in the sea. Creating a barrier between them and the living. Symbolic barrier. Body burned, ashes spread (using fire to make the body lose its form, air to spread it). Separation between the in tact living and the dissapating floating dead.
  4. Soundsendoff, covering tracks, scaring "stowaways". Using noise as a smokescreen so you can leave them there and they can't follow you back. If portals, try to send the dead there, use noise to scare cosmic goons from crossing over. Used in a magical way to ensure there's a separation between the living and the dead.
  5. "Not Dead" Activitiesdefying death. Flipping off death. We're eating, drinking, having fun, we can even kill stuff. If we were dead, we couldn't do this, but we can, so we're not dead. Life goes on.
  6. Storytellingmemories, consensus, meaning, prescription. Solidify our memories of the diseased. The person in the dead body is a passed episode. Have to be talked in past-tense. Filling in memory gaps, collective acknowledgement of yeah, this person is really dead. They try to make sense out of it. Prescription in the sense of what can we learn from this, what do we do with this? Try to tell stories to shape public opinions.

Two story motifs

1) The Comfort Motif

The Comfort Motif

There is something separates the living and the dead. Whatever this boundary is, if it's dimensional or the fact that death is the end, the dead are no longer accessible by the living. The dead are inaccessible. In a different place or they've ceased to exist. Both religious and non-religious version of the motif. Timmy's in heaven now. I'm not going to see Timmy until I die and go there.We access the dead indirectly via identity markers. Using identity markers in a way to bring comfort to ourselves. Family has lost their youngest son. May keep their sons room exactly the same way. Using son's posessions as furniture as a way of trying to keep the son's memory alive in them. They can't access their son directly. Even if they believe in heaven, they cannot have direct contact with their son agian. They may believe that they could be reunited when they die. They use identity markers to remind them of the joyful reunion that will come.All we can do is draw comfort and hope from their identity markers.

2) The Threat Motif

The Threat Motif

Not only are the dead accessible, but so are the cosmic goons. There is an unseen world that exists close to or among us. If they make their way past the boundaries. Have to be careful with their identity markers. Don't want to invoke their prescence. Don't speak their name. The threat: the dead continue so you have to be careful. Boundary is like a portal. Don't want to open that portal without the proper safeguards in place. It becomes a magical way of dealing with identity markers. Particular rituals/days of the year that can open up the portal. Celtic: Halloween - on a particular night on a year, that's when the portal opens up. Costumes blend in with the cosmic goons so they won't hassle you. Trying to look as badass as any other cosmic goon. This happens one day a year, you need to prepare yourself. This is a real and present threat.

Film: Des Morts of the dead

Oxen had to fall in the right direction. Singing, making noise, laughing, playing games, killing animals, gathering, dancing, sendoff, the body, gifts. Making sure they burty the body right. Position of the body. Clothing of body. Nature atop the burial (shitload of trees).
Watching film of deceased - enjoy the person again. Hear them again.
Flower on coffin. Singing.
Casketts. Protecting remains. Comfortable coffin.
Cleaning of the body, disinfecting. Grooming. Feel, touch, kiss remains. Eulogy. Religious sendoffs. Use things to keep the shape of the body. Car formations when transporting the body.
SAd that he missed his mother's funeral. Singing to death. Cutting the body open and sewing them back up.
Freezing heads. Cryogenics. All we can guarantee is that if you're not frozen, you don't have a chance.
Muscular distrophy - they don't want to die. They still have their minds even if they don't have their bodies. Death is going to happen anyway. when the time comes, decisions may change. Slowly dying - get used to it.
If you eat a can of beans, you throw the can away. Why are you trying to save the body?
Cleansing the self. Putting the body in water. Cremating. Extra care of the body and the clothing.
Teaching the young.
Wrapping them up.

Lecture 4: October 7, 2015

The Medical Level

80% of people will die in a medical setting. Medical system has replaced the role religious systems have in terms of prominence and impact. Treatments are incompetent, not available for everyone. Physicians were asked if they would accept long-term treatments for treatment and they say "hell no."

    Key Background Factors - these are the things that affect when or whether somebody has contact with the medical system. Not all directly relevant to death.
  1. Community Health Initiatives Trying to educate the public about health and disease. Providing public services that can prevent health and disease. Relatively minor ecoli outbreak at a food processing company: that's a scandal. An accepted safety standard was made and followed. Ecoli outbreak in water. Huge scandal because you assume the water is going to be safe and clean.Something only becomes perceived as a scandal because USUALLY the system works well. We know to wash our hands. If you just had a big poo poo and you're about to make my sub, please wash your hands. For symbolic reasons at the least. Sesame Street Initiative (Obesity outbreak). Cookie monster being educated about fruits. He's not avocado monster. Trying to make distinction between anytime food and sometime food. Muppet - Kami. HIV/AIDS. [Video]. Educating children.
  2. Health care accessibilityLiteral availability of healthcare affects its psychological availability. American healthcare basically means walk it off. A lot of people will just walk it off because healthcare is limited. "I can't afford this." That may delay care and complicate the condition.
  3. The four types of death (natural/unnatural/expected/unnexpected) - they can all end up in the medical system. What if it's an unexpected death? Organ donation, do not ressuscitate order, etc. The type of death will drive the kind of contact you have with the medical system both during rehabilitation or death (what happenss afterwards)
    Key Players. The decision makers that have an impact on the quality of death.
  1. physician/medical staff Psychological issue centers on the medical mindset of the medical staff. Real risk to slide into a mindset that's a technician - that you're treating symptoms and body parts and not people, not focused on emotional support - only relaying information. Patients are people. HOUSE. The main character House is an extreme stereotype of that. He was just solving the puzzle. He wanted to figure out the puzzle. There used to be no death education program for medical personnel (not just how to deal with patients, but to deal with themselves). Research - people who decide to be physicians have issues (many but not all). Compared to general population, physicians score higher on fear of death measures. Physicians have 3x the suicide rate (higher for women). They experienced an early loss. Higher than average perfectionism. Patients die - I failed, this shouldn't have happened, I don't have any sense of control anymore. A lot self-medicate. Fear of death, increased suicide risk, possible history of early loss, self-medication, workaholic subculture (residencies), sleep-deprived. NOT a good picture. Makes sense why physicians objectify their patients. Being a technician takes the emotion out of things.
  2. familyMorality 101. Trying to balance the needs of others and your own needs. Family members (those who survive the dying person) need to balance their own needs with the needs of the dying person. "You can't die now, we need you here" message - how long the dying person may fight and the amount of suffering they will endure to try and hold on for them. If there are unresolved issues in the family, the death of a family member will bring those to surface. It represents an opportunity for family members to try and resolve those things.
  3. patient They have to deal with the fact that they're the one dying Nobody else in the system is actively dying, the patient is. They're in the bonus round - extra set of issues.
      Extra issues:
    • fearsAfraid of the unknown, going to hell, afraid for their loved ones (will the family fall apart? Maybe they need me, I'm the glue), what's gonna happen to people when I'm not here? Self-focused and other-focused. How do we know? Is anybody talking to the patient.
    • communication styleHow in touch are they with their feelings? How willing are they to talk about them? If you're in a hell of a pain, are you going to ask for more pain medication.
    • sense of responsibility to participate in their own healthcare. Lots of family members don't want to decide. Usually dying individual trying to push these responsibilities off. You don't want to deal with it? Did I mention I was dying. How much responsibility is the individual willing to take in their own care?
    • unfinished business estrangements, grudges, disappointments. The best you can do, if there's time, awareness, there's an opportunity.
    Key issues. The factors that directly affect how a death is experienced
  1. quality of life Realistically, what's the possibility of recovery? Terminal - pain management. How long is the dying process? Preservation of personhood. A lot of us are afraid of losing our sense of self more than dying. (relevant to medical readings shivo). Different interpretations of quality of life - living for a few hours vs. not being born at all.
  2. communication Good communication includes talking and listening.
    • talking AND listening if someone says something a second after you say something, it means they probably weren't listening and were thinking about what they were going to say. Both legally, emotionally, medically when the patient isn't an adult. Child can't legally participate. Can't communicate what they're experiencing. Isn't easy and isn't automatic.
    • information AND feelings Messages that supercharge the process. Can make things more difficult. If it's prolonged, an individual's feelings may change.
  3. choice
    • sense of choice What is the dying patient's sense of control. Do they feel like they have a say? Is the patient there, but people are talking about him like he was unconscious?
    • making of choices For a patient, 3 choices: Yes, No, search for alternatives. Not making a decision amounts to a refusal. It's the idea of something that freaks us out. Maybe when we get alzheimer's, we just mellow out - we don't think this. It's not about the logical facts, it's the idea of it. The movie in our head freaks us out.
    • "playing God" Family members - no surviving family member wants to do this unless you're a serial killer in waiting. They don't want to make decisions regarding the end of life care. Is this fair for the surviving family members too? It's very family-specific. Without people talking about it, it's not going to work.
    • (competing) ethical frameworks (Schweder) Everything has to do with a framework, a way of making what people consider morally correct decisions. Different individuals in different parts of the world prioritize things differently. There are different frameworks.
        Competing Ethical Frameworks (Schweder). Depending on the framework, decision making is going to be difficult. Everyone can think they are morally correct because they're using different rules. They're prioritizing different things. When we experience conflict in ourselves, we could be considering different frameworks.
      • Autonomy (harm, rights, justice.) Is harm an issue? Individual rights. Justice.
      • Community (duty, heirarchy, accountability.) Not just about your rights. You're accountable to other people - family members, tribe, local community, faith, nation. It's not just about you. Focus on shame vs. honour. Feeling like a burden.
      • Divinity (sacred/natural order) Something that transcends you and me and everybody else. Divine decree, natural law. This is the way it is, the way life/universe works. We didn't make them, but they govern all of us. Religious - God said to respect life - massive impact on the medical decisions that people make (physician-assisted suicide).
  4. "healing" versus cure (hospice) Patients that are no longer looking to be cured. Help them face that death as comfortably as possible. Focus on creating as much comfort and safety as possible. Opportunity of healing of emotions and relationships. Not trying to heal the body anymore. Trying to get as much distraction out of the way so people can come together and make the most of the time that they have together.

Lecture 5: Octber 14, 2015

Death and the Law

    Three thought questions
  1. Why do we have laws (in general)?
  2. What laws exist that are (somehow) relevant to death?
  3. How well do laws (2) map onto reasons(1)?


Before death when death is way off. Planning for the future that may seem far, far away.


Referring to acts that involve causing some form of unnatural death. Big theme: people should not make decisions regarding the actual event of death. Be that our own or be that of others.


So you're dead... now what?

Arguments for advance planning

How your body will be disposed, whether or not you make medical donations, etc. All choices that you can participate in that relate to your death.

Lecture 6: October 21, 2015

The Religious Level

    Three Questions:
  1. What will happen to you when you die?
  2. Why do you believe that?
  3. Has this changed over time?

Regardless of what you think will happen to you, it is a belief because it is a future event. Have to restrict to answerable questions. Can only look at the human side.

Three Assumed Human Needs

    What are humans like? Not a want, but a need. If it isn't there, we suffer physical or psychologically. (Nutrition and hydration)
  1. meaning - We want the world to make sense. We want to know why events happen. Gossiping: Trying to understand what's going on. Meaning can take a variety of forms from trying to determine if something is threatening to the maning of life. Experiment. Experimenter leaves and someone else comes in. They look similar, but they're not the same. There's an expectation that there's gonna be some consistency.
  2. control - Need for control. When we feel like we have no control with the environment, we stop trying to interact with the environment. If they feel like they have no control of the outcome, they're either already depressed or going to be. It affects our physical health too. Nursing home. both groups got a plant. 1 group was responsible for the plant, the other group weren't. The ones who were responsible for the plant, felt better because they had control over the plant. They were healthier too. "Any good scientist replicates." "I need to figure out this gravity shit." If you know the environment, then you'll know how to interact with it.
  3. relationship - basic survival reason: when we're born, we're not self-sustained. Babies don't go "Screw you guys, I'm leaving home." We are an interdependent species. We need each other for survival. Hard-wired from birth to respond back, to be relational.

What is Religion?

[VIDEO - Mondo Elvis - A Documentary] A priest is like an elvis impersonator. Show how the definition works. Entity was Elvis. A lot of persecution, dreams, socializing the next generation.

Why/how is religion applicable to death?

Lecture 8: October 28, 2015

The Arts/Media Level

    What are the functions of art/media?
  1. Information Media is our source of death information. Pornography can lead people to have expectations. A lot of people choose sex education as being the better source. Imagine bill mandating death education in schools. How are our expectations affected by what we see in the media? More opposition for death curriculum more than sex education curriculum.
  2. Evocation Evoke. Arts and media serve an emotional function. Evoking emotional reactions. Make us feel warm and fuzzy or indignant or disgusted. Death can be a very powerful propoganda tool. You can't weasel out of this, it applies to you. It's not simply there to threaten people. It can be very powerful tool because there are lots of emotions associated with it.
  3. PersuasionInformation + Evocation Providing you some information and trying to evoke some emotional reactions to try to get you to do something. Could be self reflect, take a cause, buy a product. Use death in a humourous way. Advertising is one example.

Art/media as representational and interpretive. Even if someone is a photo journalist, they're just documenting. Unless you are mechanical and taking 360 photos of everything at every certain time, you're leaving things out. If you're going through hundreds of photos and choosing 10, you're making choices. You're in the business of storytelling - pulling out things and leaving out certain things. You're still interpreting even if you're objective. They capture the story as you see it, not the whole story. The best we can do is represent a slice of reality. CBC vs. CNN. Party leaders embracing vs. badass killer. Choosing particular narratives/images to tell the same story.There are always different aspects that are presented. Social media has changed things - the fact that anybody has a camera now. Now anybody can post a video. A private citizen can now show things that mainstream media can't show. When you choose to show this and not that, choices are being made. People are going to take a sequence of events and put a spin on it. People are going to disagree on the narrative.

What influences representation/interpretation?

Insights from the communication model: Who said What to Whom with What Effect?(Who - source, what - message, to whom - audience, what effect - consequences.)

1. Source constraints

These are things/characteristics that are inside the sender that limit and direct their communication choices.

Recipients have motives, too... think about when the source and recepient have different motives.

2. Referent constraints

What is actually being talked about.

3. Contextual Constraints

What you should or shouldn't when covering death. They can be overridden, but there will be consequences.

What are the consequences of particular representations/interpretations?

    Two examples:
  1. "suicide contagion" (Cialdini) - after a suicide is publicized, there will be copycat suicides. Age, ethnicity, and gender will match the deceased. You'll see increased plane accidents and public transit accidents (operators). If somebody went to school with a kid who committed suicide, there was a 5x increase. People were thinking about it a lot more. Older kids were less risk-elevated. Not necessarily friends. Just knew of them. They committed suicides. Has a disinhibition function. People may not have been coping well, they see someone who they identify with, they see it as a viable option. How is the story framed?
    Not glorifying incident and giving people alternatives. Depression is something that is treatable. Suicide doesn't have to be the outlet for it. TTC will not report suicide jumpers - trying to discourage contagion effect.
  2. "mean world" syndrome (Gerbner) - because of the amount of violent programming, either through crime dramas or local news, what ends up happening is that people who are heavy media consumers can overestimate the risk of being harmed by violent crime. People's attitudes to punishing criminals can go up even if crime rates are going down. People are getting a mythical representation of how violent the world is. See the world as meaner than it really is, even if fictional.

Lecture 9: November 4, 2015

Death at the Political Level

What are political issues?

Government at the provincial, municipal, national level. We're going to focus on national and international level. How do nations treat each other? Every country has done something that every other country saw as stupid. Every country has a dark side. Levels interrelated. Governments influence arts/media, communicate to citizens through media. May control or not media. Try to maintain certain image to the rest of the world.

Think about some world leader that really pisses you off. That world leader was once a little kid in a family. Be mindful of that. This stuff is interconnected.

The "Laurier Death Game"
Basic and Advanced resources - 4 of each, 8 total. Randomly divided the class into 4 groups. Each group got 1 basic and 1 advanced.
Decide on an alliance with at least one other group.
Two alliances were formed:
North-South: land, building materials, transportation, medicine.
East-West: food, fuel, military, communication.

Task 1: rate quality and stability of life within their own country/alliance and within the other alliance as they saw it. Ingroup favouritism effect. Ingroup rated as way better. Our lives are better, yours suck. Now: Death no longer exists. Task 2: rate again.
North-South (BUILDING): stronger ingroup favouritism (if you're not gonna die, you need a place to put people. THIS matters.)
East-West (MILITARY): weaker ingroup favoritism (we're gonna blow you to pieces, but you're gonna come back to life.)
DEATH CHANGES EVERYTHING. How interwoven the reality of death is in the political level.

Death and the Nation: Two perspectives

Politics, Death, and the Individual

nation as part of the individual's extended self

Extended self - identity markers. Nation can become an identity marker.

nationals as part of the nation's extended self

Lecture 10: November 11, 2015

The Family Level

Letting Go: A Hospice Journey (HBO Documentary)

How family members are relating to each other.

"We're gambling anyway aren't we?" Give things a shot. Doctor is very technical, but you can see he's getting emotional. Deaths of identity, deaths of identity. Most healing thing is for someone to come in and connect without you. Insurance will stop covering. Help the family let go of things that have bounded and constricted their life. Anger: Why is this happenening to me? Bargaining: Maybe if I'm a better person, god will take this illness away. Acceptance: what is happening is happening. Hospice worker fighting for them. Hospice workers care as much as the family.

Child: Can't know how to know what's going on in the head and heart of a chilld. Abandonment is same as death. Father cares a lot. Father didn't wanna deal with death, but hospice made it better. If you're in pain, that's all there is. Medical power to control physical distress. There is opportunities for the person and the family. Hospice tries to control suffering so that dying isn't so horrible. It's sad, but not horrible. It's hard to be an adult when you're a little girl. After Michael dies, father has to catch up on 8 years missed with Crystal. His death brought people together.

Woman: Mother couldn't believe it. Up until that day... Will and planning is bringing doubt. Don't think she's going to die. Didn't think that psychological aspect was important. Encouraging. Don't wanna dwell on the problem. Hiding distress. Religion. Even friend of son came. Relying on god to save her. "I can't stay like this." "She can't go."

Ralph Armstrong. Scared. Not always easy to talk about how he felt. Mother believed in biting the bullets. Can't act out your personhood. "Well he ain't gone now!" Still have time to have happy times. He said that wife takes responsibility. Talked about relationship openly. Lots of frustration. Hospice workers trying to get them to resolve their issues. Chose to die. Gave up. Wife let him know positive things that he can leave. His mom told him it's okay to go.

Charles Koines old man. He was at peace.

Lecture 11: November 18, 2015

Death and the Relational Level

Key idea: Death changes relationships. Even if understanding that the dead live on. Even at that level, the fact of death changes how you relate to the deceased. Even if you talk to them as if they were present, they're not going to respond back like they used to. You see relationships shifting. Going to shake up the family system depending on who they were. Different individuals occupy different roles in families. Survivors are going to relate to each other in different ways. Communities will relate to other people in different ways. Metaphor: Mobile. When there's a death, you're breaking a piece of that mobile. People have to reorient."I don't know how 2 kids could be grow up so different coming from the same family." It's not the same family. You have different roles in the family. It's never the same system - a system's perspective.

Should Sorrow - "Legitimized Grief"

Shouldn't Sorrow - "Disenfranchised Grief"

    (Doka). A series of premises. Step by step approach. Sequentially related.
  1. loss is idiosyncratic Loss is highly individualized. A big deal to you may not be to a bunch of other people. Mondo Elvis. May not been able to connect with Frankie Buttons. But for them, it was a big deal. Celebrity deaths.The death may not mean a damn thing to you.
  2. some losses are consensual Whether or not you were connected to that person, you can get why it bothers people. Those based on kinship. If a parent, sibling, or child dies. You may not have known them. Your kid died, I get that its a big deal. I don't know you, or your child, but I get it. Recognition. You get how it affects the survivors. Legal/business standpoint.
  3. some losses are not Typically losses that are based on kinship, the further away we move away from family, the greater the likelihood that somebody's not going to recognize that loss. When people fail to get it, that can be problematic. If they fail to recognize the value of the deceased or the survivor's capacity to respond to the loss, there's going to be a "not getting of it" there.
      Could be because of
    • the relationship - they don't recognize the relationship. Ex-spouses. If you're the dumpee, maybe you're still attached to them. Widow can lay claim on the grief, but what about the ex? That relationship isn't being acknowledged.
    • the loss - that thing is not given enough signifcance.
    • the griever - they're too young, or demented.
  4. which has consequences for the griever If the loss is not openly acknowledged => neither publicly mourned nor socially supported.If people don't get it, they're going to not give you the space and time to mourn. Not socially supported. You lose ritual and sympathy. Not gonna provide anything because we're not getting it. They gotta do it privately.

Among the disenfranchised

The disturbing interesting theme: "different from me" → lack of empathy → disenfranchisement
They're different from me somehow. Seeing someone as different from me sets up a disconnect. If I don't think you and I have anything in common, that signals an empathy breakdown. It all leads to disenfranchisement. To get rid of disenfranchisement, find some point of similarity/commonality - even hypothetically. What if one of my siblings died of alcoholism - what would that feel like?

Death and Lifespan Development

Developmental Time Periods

Infancy/Toddlerhood (0-2) -- language, attachment.

Most models have accumulative, existential loss. Is wisdom possible?

Petrican & Burris (2011) -
older (versus younger) adults:

People feel trapped in time. Scale that has to do with how trapped people feel in time.

Older adults feel less trapped in time than university students. Old people are less annoyed by the fact that they would die. They express more love for their partner. They showed less need for "Compensatory control" Are you going to try to control other people if you feel trapped in time?
I feel trapped - I feel like my life is out of control. Whatever outlets I can find, I'm going to do this.

Lecture 12: Month Day, 2015

Death and the Individual 2: Personality

How would you deal with the death of someone close to you? How do you deal with your own death?

Why personality?

One approach: The Enneagram ( 9 types map onto cross-cultural work on values.

The 9 Personality Types: How do you deal with your own death and how do you deal with somebody else's?

The accident comic. At the movie theater. He's a 4. Yeah, I'm a 4, I'v been abandoned.