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Terror management theory posits that people tend to respond defensively to reminders of death, including worldview defense, self-esteem striving, and suppression of death thoughts. Seven experiments examined whether trait mindfulness-a disposition characterized by receptive attention to present experience-reduced defensive responses to mortality salience (MS). Under MS, less mindful individuals showed higher worldview defense (Studies 1-3) and self-esteem striving (Study 5), yet more mindful individuals did not defend a constellation of values theoretically associated with mindfulness (Study 4). To explain these findings through proximal defense processes, Study 6 showed that more mindful individuals wrote about their death for a longer period of time, which partially mediated the inverse association between trait mindfulness and worldview defense. Study 7 demonstrated that trait mindfulness predicted less suppression of death thoughts immediately following MS. The discussion highlights the relevance of mindfulness to theories that emphasize the nature of conscious processing in understanding responses to threat.
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... Four studies, in particular, have examined the moderating influence of mindfulness with regard to negative attitudes toward outgroups (Niemiec et al., 2010;Platt & Szoka, 2019;Price-Blackshear et al., 2017;Scheps & Walsh, 2020); three of these studies found that mindfulness was a significant moderator of this relationship. Niemiec et al. (2010) showed that trait mindfulness moderates the negative effect of defensive threat on ingroup bias. ...
... Four studies, in particular, have examined the moderating influence of mindfulness with regard to negative attitudes toward outgroups (Niemiec et al., 2010;Platt & Szoka, 2019;Price-Blackshear et al., 2017;Scheps & Walsh, 2020); three of these studies found that mindfulness was a significant moderator of this relationship. Niemiec et al. (2010) showed that trait mindfulness moderates the negative effect of defensive threat on ingroup bias. Specifically, in response to defensive threat (i.e., mortality salience), White participants, living in the U.S., who reported higher levels of trait mindfulness showed less pro-U.S. bias and less pro-White bias compared to those with lower levels of trait mindfulness. ...
... (2017) argued that the capacity to be mindful in daily life is a resource that people can draw upon within threatening or anxiety-producing intergroup contexts. Neither Niemiec et al. (2010), Platt & Szoka (2019), nor Price-Blackshear et al. (2017) found much evidence for direct correlations between mindfulness and outgroup attitudes. Consistent with these findings, Nicol and De France (2018) found little evidence for a direct relationship between trait mindfulness and prejudice or related worldviews (i.e., social dominance orientation; right-wing authoritarianism; see also Nicol & De France, 2022). ...
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System justification theory suggests that high-status group members endorsing status hierarchies will favor their ingroup and may show less positive outgroup attitudes. Understanding which variables influence these relationships is important. We explored whether trait mindfulness would decouple the relationship between racial-system justification, negative ethnic attitudes, and other-group orientation, among samples of White Americans. Studies 1 and 2 suggested that trait mindfulness moderated (i.e., decoupled) the negative influences of system justification on the outcome variables. In some circumstances, intergroup anxiety mediated the findings for those low and moderate in trait mindfulness, as compared to those with high trait mindfulness. Our findings support the predictions of system justification theory but reveal that trait mindfulness can decouple the relationship between system justification and outgroup attitudes. This suggests that trait mindfulness may best serve as a moderator that decouples pernicious relationships, as compared to having direct influences on prejudice. These findings are important, because understanding factors which reduce prejudice are relevant given its persistence in the United States.
... Recent research has begun to focus on mindfulness as a correlate, predictor, and intervention for a person's fear of death (Moon 2019;Niemiec et al. 2010). Mortality salience can be enhanced in different ways. ...
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Objectives Early Buddhist thought clearly recognizes the need for learning how to face one’s own mortality, for which purpose mindfulness practice has a central role to play. Fear of death has also been studied in cognitive psychology, leading to what is known as the terror management theory. Actual research evidence in psychology has already shown that mindfulness practice may reduce fear and anxiety in general. However, there is a lack of research examining the specific effects of brief mindfulness practices on the fear of death and dying. In this study we tested the hypothesis that brief mindfulness practices used daily over a period of 6 weeks will result in a reduction of the fear of death and dying when compared to brief contemplative practices used as an active control condition. Methods Participants ( n = 89) were randomly assigned to the mindfulness ( n = 44) and the contemplation ( n = 45) conditions and completed validated scales measuring four distinct fears related to either the process of dying or the final event of death (dying of oneself, death of oneself, dying of others, and death of others), mindfulness, and self-compassion at baseline, post-intervention (at 6 weeks) and follow up (1‒3 weeks after the end of the 6-week intervention). ANOVA was used to investigate the effects of both interventions on outcome variables over time and between groups. Results Both mindfulness and contemplative practices were equally effective in reducing fear related to dying of oneself and death of others while increasing fear of dying of others, mindfulness, and self-compassion. No significant intervention effects were found for fear related to death of oneself only. Conclusions These results suggest that fears related to dying of oneself and death of others can be reduced using both mindfulness and contemplative practices that may simultaneously increase mindfulness and self-compassion.
... For instance, individuals with a disease might be expected to experience more worry and anxiety (Missler et al., 2012). A link between the higher mental health of individuals and higher optimism toward death and consequently lower fear of death was also investigated in the past study (Niemiec et al., 2010). Based on the above-mentioned findings, it is expected that these factors play important roles, and hence future studies should consider them. ...
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Despite the importance of the topic of death, a limited comprehensive statistical analysis conducted highlighting the complex association between fear of death and various variables. Thus, this study is conducted to account for the possible complexity by considering all interaction terms after reducing the dimensionality of a dataset by means of recursive feature elimination, followed by the removal of the multi-collinear variables. The results highlighted, for instance, although being married, older and female offset the negative associations of fear of death, their impacts are multiplicative. Also, those who think cryonics is desirable are associated with higher fear of death. For instance, while belief in cryonics is positively associated with fear of death, its association varies depending on the trouble that individuals experience that someday they would not be alive and their marital status.
... self-acceptance) as more important than extrinsic values (e.g. wealth) [20,21]. While these findings highlight potential links between individuals' own mindfulness and values, research has not assessed the values people attribute to mindful and less-mindful individuals. ...
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This chapter proposes that the potential for abject terror created by the awareness of the inevitability of death in an animal instinctively programmed for self-preservation and continued experience lies at the root of a great deal of human motivation and behavior. This chapter presents the results of a substantial body of research that attests to the broad influence of the problem of death on human social behavior and illuminates the processes through which concerns about mortality exert their influence. The chapter overviews the primary assumptions and propositions of terror management theory and a description of the initial research conducted to test the theory. It presents a detailed consideration of more recent research that establishes the convergent and discriminant validity of the mortality salience treatment and the robustness of its effects through the use of alternative mortality salience treatments and comparison treatments, and replications by other researchers; it extends the range of interpersonal behaviors that are demonstrably influenced by terror management concerns. Moreover, it demonstrates the interaction of mortality salience with other theoretically relevant situational and dispositional variables, and provides an account of the cognitive processes through which mortality salience produces its effects. Finally, this chapter discusses the relation of terror management motives to other psychological motives and gives a consideration of issues requiring further investigation.
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The present study was designed to build on prior terror management research by testing the hypothesis that death-related thought first activates direct defenses to minimize the threat (proximal defense) and then later triggers symbolic cultural worldview defense (distal defense). After mortality salience, participants were either distracted from death-related thought or not and then completed either a measure of distal defense and then a measure of proximal defense or a proximal defense measure and then a distal defense measure. Results supported the authors’ predictions. Proximal defense in the form of vulnerability denial emerged only when participants had immediately before been thinking about death. In contrast, distal defense only emerged when participants were previously distracted from death-related thought. Discussion focuses on implications of these results for understanding the sequence of defenses initiated by mortality salience.
Article
Three experiments reported here provide empirical support for the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that unconscious concerns about death motivate allegiance to cultural beliefs. Study 1 contrasted exposure to a subliminal death-related stimulus, a standard mortality-salience treatment, and a neutral subliminal stimulus, and found that both the subliminal and the standard reminder of mortality led to more favorable evaluations of people who praised subjects' cultural worldview and more unfavorable evaluations of those who challenged it. Study 2 replicated this finding by comparing the effects of exposure to subliminal death stimuli and subliminal pain stimuli. Study 3 contrasted subliminal death stimuli, supraliminal death stimuli, and subliminal pain stimuli and found that only subliminal death stimuli produced these effects.