terror management theory (TMT)

ernest becker
anthropologist, worked with psychiatric patients as he developed his ideas about world views, wanted to know the meaning of life
Wrote books-
Birth of Death of Meaning
The Denial of Death
Escape from Evil
how are we as humans the same as other animals? (fundamental question)
instinct for self-preservation
how are we as humans different from other animals? (fundamental question)
temporal thought, symbolic thought, self-reflective thought, self-consciousness
Temporal thought
we have the ability to imagine and think about past, present, and future
symbolic thought
creation and recognition of arbitrary symbols
self-reflective thought
can see ourselves as an object which can give us more freedom from reactivity
know that we exist, because we know we exist we are aware that we will one day cease to exist, Awareness of mortality
Fundamental conflict
instinct for self-preservation vs. knowledge of mortality
Leads to terror/anxiety
(TMT) culture
Shared symbolic conception of reality that fills the world with meaning, order, and permanence
(TMT) how did we get here?
science lenses, religion lenses
(TMT) what do we do while we are here?
value prescriptions (define things as good/bad, for or against us)-help give us order in the world
(TMT) what happens after we are here?
Death transcendence or immortality
Literal- decomposition
Symbolic- afterlife, legacy
3 questions of TMT (How here, what here, what after)
come together to create an awareness of death + instinct for survival= potential anxiety/dealt with through investing in culture (includes religion and science)
CWV challenged
4 responses
Derogation: put them down
Assimilation: take opposing belief into your own
Accommodation: change my belief to take the other belief into account or to accept it
Annihilation: get rid of the opposing CWV
(TMT) culture creates?
fictional hero systems to deal with anxiety-they are temporary and false ex:athletes/entertainers
(TMT) cultural anxiety buffer?
Cultural worldview as a 2-part anxiety buffer
1-Belief that the world/ existence is meaningful in some way
2-Self Esteem
(TMT) problems
Culturally relative (hard to test ideas because it can evolve with culture)
Fragile constructions that require social validation (have to agree on some of tenants before preposing hypothesis)
(TMT) suicide
Many reasons to commit suicide
Preserving honor?
Attention seeking?
Sick of it all?
(TMT laboratory) hypothesis
If…one’s mortality is salient
Then…we respond positively to those who uphold our cultural values, and negatively toward those who violate cultural norms
(TMT laboratory) method
IV-death prime vs no death prime
DV-amount of bond to be paid by a target (prostitution)
(TMT laboratory) results
Mortality salience increased how punitive participants were toward the target only when they thought the target’s behavior was immoral

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