Terror management and self-awareness: Evidence that mortality salience provokes avoidance of the self-focused state

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

Two studies assessed the terror management hypothesis that when mortality is salient, people will avoid stimuli that increase self-awareness. In Study 1, we measured the length of time that participants wrote about either their death or an exam in cubicles that either did or did not contain a large mirror. In Study 2, participants completed either a death anxiety scale or a future concerns scale and then wrote a story fostering either an internal or external focus of attention. As predicted, in Study 1, the self-focusing stimulus reduced the amount of time that participants spent in the cubicles contemplating their mortality. In Study 2, mortality-salient participants wrote less when the task prompted an internal focus of attention than when it prompted an external focus. Across both studies, no differences emerged between participants in the control conditions. Implications of this research for understanding the relationship between terror management processes and self-awareness are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1216-1227
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Volume24
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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