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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology