Perceived consensus, uniqueness, and terror management: Compensatory responses to threats to inclusion and distinctiveness following mortality salience

Linda Simon, Jeff L Greenberg, Jamie Arndt, Tom Pyszczynski, Russell Clement, Sheldon Solomon

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An experiment assessed the proposition that competing motives for inclusion and individuation both function to control concerns about mortality. Combining ideas from terror management theory and optimal distinctiveness theory, the authors hypothesized that mortality salience would increase the tendency of participants given feedback that they had strong conformist tendencies to underestimate social consensus for their attitudes and the tendency of participants given feedback that they were deviant to exaggerate social consensus for their attitudes. Participants were given either one or theother type of feedback, responded to open-ended questions about either their own death or their next important exam, computed a measure of social projection in which they indicated their own attitudes, and then estimated the percentage of the general population that shared their opinions. Results on a social projection measure consisting of the partial correlation between own and others' attitudes, controlling for social desirability, provided strong support for the hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1055-1065
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology

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