09/25/2014 08:42 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2014

How Fear Of Death Could Make You Splurge

Spencer Platt via Getty Images

If you’re trying to sell something, consider putting a tombstone in your ad. It might seem macabre, but a new study suggests that thinking about death makes people eager to buy.

Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard report that the psychologist Enny Das and her co-authors showed participants several fake ads, some death-themed and some not. In a particularly grim experiment, they offered each subject the opportunity to see his or her own name and birth date on a gravestone, as part of an ad for a newspaper (tagline: “How long do you want to wait? Take a trial subscription to X now for only 9.95 per month”). The subjects were actually more positively disposed to this ad than to one that featured a boy innocuously waiting by a mailbox; they also said the tombstone ad would make them more likely to subscribe.

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