Deliver Us from Evil: The Effects of Mortality Salience and Reminders of 9/11 on Support for President George W. Bush

Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0068, USA.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Impact Factor: 2.52). 10/2004; 30(9):1136-50. DOI: 10.1177/0146167204267988
Source: PubMed


According to terror management theory, heightened concerns about mortality should intensify the appeal of charismatic leaders. To assess this idea, we investigated how thoughts about death and the 9/11 terrorist attacks influence Americans' attitudes toward current U.S. President George W. Bush. Study 1 found that reminding people of their own mortality (mortality salience) increased support for Bush and his counterterrorism policies. Study 2 demonstrated that subliminal exposure to 9/11-related stimuli brought death-related thoughts closer to consciousness. Study 3 showed that reminders of both mortality and 9/11 increased support for Bush. In Study 4, mortality salience led participants to become more favorable toward Bush and voting for him in the upcoming election but less favorable toward Presidential candidate John Kerry and voting for him. Discussion focused on the role of terror management processes in allegiance to charismatic leaders and political decision making.

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Available from: Claude Miller, Oct 07, 2015
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    • "Thus the preference for more attractive candidates was moderated both by participant age and health, consistent with the suggestion that these two variables influence the engagement of a disease avoidance mechanism that can influence preferences for more fit leaders. This operation of a disease avoidance mechanism complements evidence that increasing mortality salience can strengthen particular political preferences (Landau et al., 2004), with individual differences moderating whether conservative or liberal preferences are augmented (Weise et al., 2008). Our results provide stronger support than previous research for a disease avoidance explanation for the preference for more attractive leaders. "
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    ABSTRACT: Among many benefits of facial attractiveness, there is evidence that more attractive politicians are more likely to be elected. Recent research found this effect to be most pronounced in congressional districts with high disease threat—a result attributed to an adaptive disease avoidance mechanism, whereby the association of low attractiveness with poor health is particularly worrisome to voters who feel vulnerable to disease. We provided a more direct test of this explanation by examining the effects of individuals’ own health and age. Supporting a disease avoidance mechanism, less healthy participants showed a stronger preference for more attractive contenders in U.S. Senate races than their healthier peers, and this effect was stronger for older participants, who were generally less healthy than younger participants. Stronger effects of health for older participants partly reflected the absence of positive bias toward attractive candidates among the healthiest, suggesting that healthy older adults may be unconcerned about disease threat or sufficiently wise to ignore attractiveness.
    Evolutionary Psychology 01/2015; 13(1):16-28. DOI:10.1177/147470491501300102 · 1.05 Impact Factor
    • "Even some of the findings that have been previously interpreted as evidence for the conservative shift predicted by the CMSC perspective are somewhat ambiguous and open to alternative interpretations consistent with TMT. For example, the finding that reminders of death increased liberal participants' support for President Bush (Landau et al., 2004) does not necessarily represent a conservative shift. President Bush was not just a representative of conservative politics but a prominent symbol of America. "
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    ABSTRACT: In two studies, the authors examined how threat induced by reminders of mortality would moderate the effect of political orientation on moral judgments. In Study 1, university students (n = 113) categorized their political orientation, were randomly assigned to complete a fear of death or public speaking scale, and then completed a moral foundations questionnaire. In Study 2, university students (n = 123) rated their political orientations, were randomly assigned to write about their own death or dental pain, and then completed a moral foundations questionnaire. In both studies, mortality salience intensified the moral differences between liberals and conservatives. These findings were primarily the result of the reactions of liberals, who responded to mortality salience with increased ratings of the fairness/cheating virtue in Study 1 and the care/harm virtue in Study 2.
    British Journal of Social Psychology 10/2014; 54(2). DOI:10.1111/bjso.12086 · 1.76 Impact Factor
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    • "One caveat to these recommendations, however, is that they should only apply to threat-induced DTA. Emotion may be less important when DTA is induced through MS, subliminal death-primes or death-associated stimuli (e.g., thinking about cancer; Arndt et al. 2007; terrorist attacks; Landau et al. 2004; or viewing images of destruction and rubble; Vail et al. 2012). Death-prime-induced DTA is believed to increase as a result of the potential anxiety invoked by death reminders (Greenberg et al. 2003), whereas death-associated stimuli induce DTA via the semantic relation between the stimuli and death-related concepts. "
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    ABSTRACT: Terror management theory presents an account of how the avoidance of the potential anxiety accompanying knowledge of one’s inevitable mortality motivates a vast array of human behaviors. However, in practice, evidence from one of the hypotheses designed to test this account—the death thought accessibility (DTA) hypothesis—has been purely cognitive. The goal of the present research was to examine the role of emotion in this process. Participants were presented with existentially threatening stimuli under experimental situations in which the emotion induced by the threat (either aversive arousal or disgust) was present or absent. When the emotion was unaltered, participants exposed to threats, relative to controls, evinced high levels of DTA (Studies 1 and 3) and worldview defense (Study 2). When the emotion was misattributed to a neutral source (Studies 1–2) or down regulated via reappraisal (Study 3), however, DTA and worldview defense did not increase. The results and implications are discussed in relation to the threat compensation literature.
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