Suppression, Accessibility of Death-Related Thoughts, and Cultural Worldview Defense: Exploring the Psychodynamics of Terror Management

Jamie Arndt, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon, Linda Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

293 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previous research has shown that after a mortality salience (MS) treatment, death thought accessibility and worldview defense are initially low and then increase after a delay, suggesting that a person's initial response to conscious thoughts of mortality is to actively suppress death thoughts. If so, then high cognitive load, by disrupting suppression efforts, should lead to immediate increases in death thought accessibility and cultural worldview defense. Studies 1 and 2 supported this reasoning. Specifically, Study 1 replicated the delayed increase in death accessibility after MS among low cognitive load participants but showed a reversed pattern among participants under high cognitive load. Study 2 showed that, unlike low cognitive load participants, high cognitive load participants exhibited immediate increases in pro-American bias after MS. Study 3 demonstrated that worldview defense in response to MS reduces the delayed increase in death accessibility. Implications of these findings for understanding both terror management processes and psychological defense in general are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume73
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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