Subliminal exposure to death-related stimuli increases defense of the cultural worldview

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

200 Scopus citations


Three experiments reported here provide empirical support for the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that unconscious concerns about death motivate allegiance to cultural beliefs. Study 1 contrasted exposure to a subliminal death-related stimulus, a standard mortality-salience treatment, and a neutral subliminal stimulus, and found that both the subliminal and the standard reminder of mortality led to more favorable evaluations of people who praised subjects' cultural worldview and more unfavorable evaluations of those who challenged it. Study 2 replicated this finding by comparing the effects of exposure to subliminal death stimuli and subliminal pain stimuli. Study 3 contrasted subliminal death stimuli, supraliminal death stimuli, and subliminal pain stimuli and found that only subliminal death stimuli produced these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-385
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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