Want to seriously up your game? Start thinking about death–your death, and start thinking about how very soon it could arrive. That’s the finding of researchers at the University of Arizona, where a recent study showed that basketball-players scored more points after being presented with death-related prompts. A U of Arizona news release reports that researchers attribute the improved performance to a subconscious effort to boost self-esteem, a protective buffer against fear of death. In one study, 31 participants played a pair of one-on-one basketball games with a researcher, who posed as another study participant. In between the two games, which lasted about seven minutes each, participants were randomly assigned questionnaires to complete. Some participants received packets that included prompts about death: “Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you,” and, “Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you as you physically die and once you are physically dead.” Others were asked to think about playing basketball: “Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of playing basketball arouses in you,” and, “Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you as you play basketball.” After doing a few “delay tasks” to allow death thoughts to “work outside of conscious attention,” the basketball games resumed. The researchers found that those players who were asked about death improved their personal performance in the second game by 40 percent, while those asked about basketball saw no change in performance. Those who thought about death also performed 20 percent better as a whole in the second game than those in the other group. And yes, before the questionnaires, the performance of both groups was roughly even.