Interpersonal politics: The role of terror management and attachment processes in shaping political preferences: Research article

David R. Weise, Tom Pyszczynski, Cathy R. Cox, Jamie Arndt, Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, Spee Kosloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations


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 rigid and absolutist values that orient people toward conservatism. Given that attachment relationships become especially active when security needs are heightened, we predicted that mortality salience would be an important factor in understanding the relationship between attachment processes and political orientation. Supporting these ideas, Study 1 showed that after a mortality-salience manipulation, securely attached participants increased their support for a liberal presidential candidate, and less securely attached participants increased their support for a conservative presidential candidate. In Study 2, a secure-relationship prime following a mortality-salience manipulation engendered a less violent approach to the problem of terrorism than did a neutral-relationship prime. We discuss the interaction of TMT processes and individual differences in attachment in shaping political preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-455
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this