Sheldon Solomon's research while affiliated with Skidmore College and other places

Publications (110)

Technical Report
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لم يبدأ الباحثون حتى أوائل الخمسينيات من القرن الماضي في الحصول على أدلة كمية تتعلق بالحاجة إلى احترام الذات. منذ ذلك الحين، أظهرت الأبحاث في علم النفس المرضي أن تدني احترام الذات يرتبط بمجموعة متنوعة من المشكلات النفسية، بما في ذلك إدمان الكحول والقلق. الاكتئاب والعصابية والفصام (انظر ويلي، 1979، للمراجعة). تشير هذه النتائج إلى أن الناس بحاجة إلى...
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Terror Management Theory (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) defines self-esteem as the feeling that one is living up to the standards of their internalized cultural worldview and is consequently worthy of the symbolic and/or literal modes of death transcendence offered by that worldview. Although there is ample evidence for the death-anxiety...
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Terror management theory is focused on the role that awareness of death plays in diverse aspects of life. Here, we discuss the theory’s implications for understanding the widely varying ways in which people have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. We argue that regardless of whether one consciously believes that the virus is a major threat to life...
Chapter
A critical function of religion is to manage the potential for terror inherent in living knowing the only certainty in one’s life is the knowledge that it will inevitably end. We first provide an overview of this terror management theory (TMT) account of religion. We discuss how children are socialized into faith in worldviews that allow them to be...
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Support for presidential candidate Donald Trump increased in the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California, similar to Americans' greater enthusiasm for President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. According to terror management theory...
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We tested predictions about religiosity and terror management processes in 16 nations. Specifically, we examined weekly variation in Google search volume in each nation for 12 years (all weeks for which data were available). In all 16 nations, higher than usual weekly Google search volume for life-threatening illnesses (cancer, diabetes, and hypert...
Chapter
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Terror management theory posits that human awareness of the inevitability of death exerts a profound influence on diverse aspects of human thought, emotion, motivation, and behavior. People manage the potential for anxiety that results from this awareness by maintaining: (1) faith in the absolute validity of their cultural worldviews and (2) self-e...
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Terror management theory posits that the uniquely human awareness of death gives rise to potentially paralyzing terror that is assuaged by embracing cultural worldviews that provide a sense that one is a valuable participant in a meaningful universe. We propose that pervasive and pronounced anti-atheist prejudices stem, in part, from the existentia...
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Four studies were conducted to examine how concerns about mortality contribute to Americans' negative attitudes and behavior toward symbols of Islam. Study 1 found that a subtle reminder of death decreased support for the Ground Zero mosque, and increased the distance from Ground Zero that people felt was appropriate for a mosque to be built. Study...
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Explores the effects of the human awareness of mortality on physical and mental health. This exploration culminates in an analysis of both the adaptive and the ironic maladaptive consequences of the psychological defenses people use to manage the terror of death. To lay the groundwork for this analysis, the authors begin with an overview of terror...
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This chapter provides a brief overview of terror management theory and research. There is discussion on how the structure and content of contemporary Western cultures conspire to reduce the usefulness of the strategies for coping with the inevitability of death that sustain people through the early and middle years of life. Finally, the authors use...
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Terror-management theory is used to examine how political preferences are altered when existential concerns are aroused. The theory posits that the uniquely human awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating terror that is managed through devotion to cultural worldviews that give individuals a sense that life has meaning and that they have...
Chapter
Although humans have much more in common with other species than most of us realize or would care to admit, only humans have an abstract conception of who they are and how they fit into the ultimate scheme of things (see e.g., Erchak, 1992). The existence of an abstract conception of self has enormous implications for every aspect of human existenc...
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In The Denial of Death [1], cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that while humans share with all forms of life a basic biological predisposition toward self-preservation in the service of survival and reproduction, we are exceptional in our capacity for symbolic thought, which enables us to ponder the past, plan for the future, and trans...
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Fantasies and dreams of flight are ubiquitous across cultures and throughout history and often linked to immortality. A perspective derived from terror management theory holds that flight fantasies are appealing because they suggest transcendence of the limitations of creatureliness and mortality. Five studies established the link between mortality...
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From a terror management theory (TMT) perspective, religion serves to manage the potential terror engendered by the uniquely human awareness of death by affording a sense of psychological security and hope of immortality. Although secular beliefs can also serve a terror management function, religious beliefs are particularly well suited to mitigate...
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We present an existential account of the psychological function of artistic activity derived from terror management theory. From this perspective, artistic creation and response alleviate concerns with mortality by affording opportunities to bolster cultural belief systems that provide death-transcending meaning and significance. We review research...
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Research has shown that mortality salience (MS) heightens liking for certain political candidates. Yet the particular qualities that make candidates more appealing after MS has been subject to debate. This study tested three possibilities: MS increases liking for charismatic candidates independent of participants’ or candidates’ political orientati...
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Research has shown that reminders of mortality lead people to engage in defenses to minimize the anxiety such thoughts could arouse. In accord with this notion, younger adults reminded of mortality engage in behaviors aimed at denying vulnerability to death. However, little is known about the effects of mortality reminders on older adults. The pres...
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Although the appeal of fame in society seems to be increasing, experimental research has yet to examine the motivations that may underlie this apparent appeal. As a first step toward doing so, we conducted three studies to assess whether concerns with mortality play a role in these phenomena. Based on terror management theory and research, we hypot...
Chapter
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This chapter uses terror management theory to explore the psychological functions of political ideology and factors that produce stability and change in ideologically relevant attitudes and behaviors. Terror management theory perspectives are compared and contrasted with system justification theory, and points of agreement and disagreement between...
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Research on terror management theory (TMT) indicates that reminders of death affect political attitudes, but political orientation only sometimes moderates these effects. We propose that secure relationships are associated with values of tolerance and compassion, thus orienting people toward liberalism; insecure attachments are associated with more...
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Two studies were conducted to examine the hypothesis derived from a juxtaposition of the undesired self and terror management theories that making aspects of the undesired self salient produces effects comparable to those obtained in response to making mortality salient. In Study 1, participants reminded of either death or aspects of their undesire...
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Six studies examined the role of young adults' parental attachment in terror management. Studies 1-3 revealed that activating thoughts of one's parent in response to mortality salience (MS) reduced death-thought accessibility and worldview defense and increased feelings of self-worth. Studies 4-5 demonstrated that MS led to greater ease of recallin...
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Terror management theory (TMT) posits that cultural worldviews and self-esteem function to buffer humans from mortality-related anxiety. TMT research has shown that important behaviors are influenced by mortality salience (MS) even when they have no obvious connection to death. However, there has been no attempt to investigate TMT processes in anxi...
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Two experiments explored age differences in response to reminders of death. Terror management research has shown that death reminders lead to increased adherence to and defense of one's cultural worldview. In Study 1, the effect of mortality salience (MS) on evaluations of moral transgressions made by younger and older adults was compared. Whereas...
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Terror management theory (TMT) posits that the uniquely human awareness of death gives rise to a potential for debilitating terror, which is averted by the construction and maintenance of cultural worldviews. Over 300 studies have supported hypotheses derived from TMT. A recent critique of TMT, Normative bias and adaptive challenges: A relational...
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Two studies examined whether dissociation from 9/11-related thoughts and emotions would be higher after mortality salience (MS) relative to a control condition. Because dissociation is believed to contribute to anxiety disorders, we also examined whether higher ratings of dissociation after MS would lead to higher reported anxiety sensitivity. In S...
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Bering's analysis is inadequate because it fails to consider past and present adult soul beliefs and the psychological functions they serve. We suggest that a valid folk psychology of souls must consider features of adult soul beliefs, the unique problem engendered by awareness of death, and terror management findings, in addition to cognitive incl...
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Why do people dislike art that they find meaningless? According to terror management theory, maintaining a basic meaningful view of reality is a key prerequisite for managing concerns about mortality. Therefore, mortality salience should decrease liking for apparently meaningless art, particularly among those predisposed to unambiguous knowledge. A...
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Research on aggression and terror management theory suggests shortcomings in Nell's analysis of cruelty. Hostile aggression and exposure to aggressive cues are not inherently reinforcing, though they may be enjoyed if construed within a meaningful cultural framework. Terror management research suggests that human cruelty stems from the desire to de...
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Study 1 investigated the effect of mortality salience on support for martyrdom attacks among Iranian college students. Participants were randomly assigned to answer questions about either their own death or an aversive topic unrelated to death and then evaluated materials from fellow students who either supported or opposed martyrdom attacks agains...
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Why do sexually appealing women often attract derogation and aggression? According to terror management theory, women's sexual allure threatens to increase men's awareness of their corporeality and thus mortality. Accordingly, in Study 1 a subliminal mortality prime decreased men's but not women's attractiveness ratings of alluring women. In Study...
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An experiment was conducted to assess the effect of a subtle reminder of death on voting intentions for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. On the basis of terror management theory and previous research, we hypothesized that a mortality salience induction would increase support for President George W. Bush and decrease support for Senator John Ker...
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This article reviews legally oriented research guided by terror management theory. An analysis of terror management, a social psychological theory that explicates the central role of mortality concerns in human social behavior, is applied to domains associated with legal decision making. This article reviews research demonstrating that reminders of...
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A study was conducted to assess the effects of mortality salience on evaluations of political candidates as a function of leadership style. On the basis of terror management theory and previous research, we hypothesized that people would show increased preference for a charismatic political candidate and decreased preference for a relationship-orie...
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We respond to commentaries by Maheswaran and Agrawal (2004) and Rindfleisch and Burroughs (2004) on the application of terror management theory to understanding conspicuous consumption and consumer behavior. Specifically, we consider individual differences in terror management research; the possibility of cultural variation (or lack thereof) in ter...
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This article presents terror management theory (TMT) as a way to understand how the human awareness of death affects materialism, conspicuous consumption, and consumer decisions. The pursuit of wealth and culturally desired commodities are hypothesized to reinforce those beliefs that function to protect people from existential anxieties. Following...
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Terror management theory and research can rectify shortcomings in Atran & Norenzayan's (A&N's) analysis of religion. (1) Religious and secular worldviews are much more similar than the target article supposes; (2) a propensity for embracing supernatural beliefs is likely to have conferred an adaptive advantage over the course of evolution; and (3)...
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The proposition that people are often unaware of the forces that lead them to do the things they do is one of the oldest, most widely accepted, but at times most controversial ideas in the history of psychology. Since psychology's inception, the popularity of accounts of behavior that emphasize unconscious motivational forces has waxed and waned. A...
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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 mort...
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Drawing on lay epistemology theory, the authors assessed a terror management analysis of the psychological function of structuring social information. Seven studies tested variations of the hypothesis that simple, benign interpretations of social information function, in part, to manage death-related anxiety. In Studies 1-4, mortality salience (MS)...
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Terror management theory (TMT; J. Greenberg, T. Pyszczynski, & S. Solomon, 1986) posits that people are motivated to pursue positive self-evaluations because self-esteem provides a buffer against the omnipresent potential for anxiety engendered by the uniquely human awareness of mortality. Empirical evidence relevant to the theory is reviewed showi...
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In this response to the commentaries regarding their terror management analysis of self-esteem (T. Pyszczynski, J. Greenberg, S. Solomon, J. Arndt, & J. Schimel, 2004), the authors focus on the convergence on certain points regarding self-esteem as a way of progressing toward an integrative perspective. In doing so, they briefly discuss how the nee...
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The authors propose that gender-differentiated patterns of jealousy in response to sexual and emotional infidelity are engendered by the differential impact of each event on self-esteem for men and women. Study 1 demonstrated that men derive relatively more self-esteem from their sex lives, whereas women's self-esteem is more contingent on romantic...
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A large body of research has shown that when people are reminded of their mortality, their defense of their cultural worldview intensifies. Although some psychological defenses seem to be instigated by negative affective responses to threat, mortality salience does not appear to arouse such affect. Terror management theory posits that the potential...
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Two studies were designed to examine whether neuroticism would moderate the effect of mortality salience on desire for control. In Study 1, participants completed a neuroticism scale, contemplated their mortality or a control topic, and then completed a desire for control scale. Results indicated that those low in neuroticism evidenced an increase...
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We offer a theoretical perspective to provide insight into why people are ambivalent about sex and why cultures regulate sex and attach symbolic meaning to it. Building on terror management theory, we propose that sex is problematic for humankind in part because it reminds us of our creaturely mortal nature. Two experiments investigated the effects...
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The terror management prediction that reminders of death motivate in-group identification assumes people view their identifications positively. However, when the in-group is framed negatively, mortality salience should lead to disidentification. Study 1 found that mortality salience increased women's perceived similarity to other women except under...
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The present research investigated the need to distinguish humans from animals and tested the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that this need stems in part from existential mortality concerns. Specifically, the authors suggest that being an animal is threatening because it reminds people of their vulnerability to death; therefore, re...
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Terror management research has often shown that after reminders of mortality, people show greater investment in and support for groups to which they belong. The question for the present research was whether or not this would extend to Euro American investment in their identification as White. Although it seemed unlikely that White participants woul...
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Previous terror management research has shown that following mortality salience, there is an effortful suppression of death-related thoughts, reducing death-thought accessibility. This is followed, after a delay, by an increase in death thought accessibility, which instigates defense of the cultural worldview; that defense, in turn, reduces accessi...
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Terror management theory posits that awareness of mortality engenders a potential for paralyzing terror, which is assuaged by cultural worldviews: humanly created, shared beliefs that provide individuals with the sense they are valuable members of an enduring, meaningful universe (self-esteem), and hence are qualified for safety and continuance bey...
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Death-related thoughts produce different effects on thought and behavior when they are in current focal attention and when they are on the fringes of consciousness. When such thoughts are conscious, people attempt to either remove them from consciousness or push death into the distant future by distorting their beliefs to logically imply that they...
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From the perspective of terror management theory, the human body is problematic because it serves as a perpetual reminder of the inevitability of death. Human beings confront this problem through the development of cultural worldviews that imbue reality-and the body as part of that reality-with abstract symbolic meaning. This fanciful flight from d...
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The present research investigated the role of the physical body as a source of self-esteem and tested the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that reminding people of their mortality increases self-esteem striving in the form of identification with one's body, interest in sex, and appearance monitoring. The results revealed that indivi...
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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 de...
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The experiment reported in this article assessed the terror management explanation of the appeal of tragedy. From this perspective, vicarious experience of tragedy, such as through film and literature, provides a safe way of approaching the fear associated with one's own mortality. Thus, we hypothesized that reminding participants of their mortalit...
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Terror management theory posits that sex is a ubiquitous human problem because the creaturely aspects of sex make apparent our animal nature, which reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality. People minimize this threat by investing in the symbolic meaning offered by the cultural worldview. Because people high in neuroticism have difficulty find...
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Distinct defensive processes are activated by conscious and nonconscious but accessible thoughts of death. Proximal defenses, which entail suppressing death-related thoughts or pushing the problem of death into the distant future by denying one's vulnerability, are rational, threat-focused, and activated when thoughts of death are in current focal...
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If stereotypes function to protect people against death-related concerns, then mortality salience should increase stereotypic thinking and preferences for stereotype-confirming individuals. Study 1 demonstrated that mortality salience increased stereotyping of Germans. In Study 2, it increased participants' tendency to generate more explanations fo...
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The present research, based on the ideas of O. Rank (1932/1989) and E. Becker (1973), was designed to test the hypotheses that engaging in creative expression after personal mortality has been made salient will lead to both increased feelings of guilt and a desire to enhance social connectedness. In Study 1, the authors used a 2 (mortality salience...
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Laboratory experiments investigating aggressive behavior have operationalized and assessed aggression in a variety of ways; however, these measures are often problematic because they do not create a situation in which participants perceive potential for real harm to come to the target, there is a risk of actual harm to the target, or they are too f...
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Laboratory experiments investigating aggressive behavior have operationalized and assessed aggression in a variety of ways; however, these measures are often problematic because they do not create a situation in which participants perceive potential for real harm to come to the target, there is a risk of actual harm to the target, or they are too f...
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Two studies assessed the terror management hypothesis that when mortality is salient, people will avoid stimuli that increase self-awareness. In Study 1, we measured the length of time that participants wrote about either their death or an exam in cubicles that either did or did not contain a large mirror. In Study 2, participants completed either...
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Previous terror management research has demonstrated that mildly depressed participants show a greater increase in worldview defense in response to reminders of their mortality than do nondepressed participants. Because the cultural worldview is posited to provide a meaningful conception of life, we hypothesized that mildly depressed participants w...
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An existential psychodynamic theory is presented based on Ernest Becker's claim that self-esteem and cultural worldviews function to ameliorate the anxiety associated with the uniquely human awareness of vulnerability and mortality. Psychological equanimity is hypothesized to require (1) a shared set of beliefs about reality that imbues the univers...
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The hypothesis that mortality salience (MS) motivates aggression against worldview-threatening others was tested in 4 studies. In Study 1, the experimenters induced participants to write about either their own death or a control topic, presented them with a target who either disparaged their political views or did not, and gave them the opportunity...
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The authors offer their take on self-regulation. They argue that rather than responding just to the immediate demands of the situation and to current levels of internal stimulation, individuals can be oriented toward abstract conceptions, values, and standards of self. In this way, individuals can create an abstract and unique self and one that has...
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This chapter proposes that the potential for abject terror created by the awareness of the inevitability of deat