Clarifying the Function of Mortality Salience-Induced Worldview Defense: Renewed Suppression or Reduced Accessibility of Death-Related Thoughts?

Jeff Greenberg, Jamie Arndt, Jeff Schimel, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 accessibility of death-related thoughts. Prior research has not shown, however, whether this postworldview defense reduction in death thought accessibility is due to an actual dissipation or to renewed efforts at suppressing such cognitions. The present study assessed these two possibilities by manipulating whether participants contemplated their mortality, had the opportunity for worldview defense, and were under high or low cognitive load. Results supported the dissipation explanation by showing that high cognitive load had no effect on levels of death thought accessibility after participants defended their worldview in response to mortality salience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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