Terror management and cognitive-experiential self-theory: Evidence that terror management occurs in the experiential system

Linda Simon, Jeff L Greenberg, Eddie Harmon-Jones, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon, Jamie Arndt, Teresa Abend

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The authors hypothesized, on the basis of terror management theory and cognitive-experiential self-theory, that participants in an experiential mode of thinking would respond to mortality salience with increased worldview defense and increased accessibility of death-related thoughts, whereas participants in a rational mode would not. Results from 3 studies provided convergent evidence that when participants were in an experiential mode, mortality salience produced the typical worldview defense effect, but when participants were in a rational mode it did not. Study 4 revealed that mortality salience also led to a delayed increase in the accessibility of death-related thoughts only when participants were in an experiential mode. These results supported the notion that worldview defense is intensified only if individuals are in an experiential mode when considering their mortality. Discussion focuses on implications for understanding terror management processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1132-1146
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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