Terror management and the vicissitudes of sports fan affiliation: The effects of mortality salience on optimism and fan identification

Mark Dechesne, Jeff Greenberg, Jamie Arndt, Jeff Schimel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

122 Scopus citations


The present research examined the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that identifications with sports teams shield against the potential consequences of awareness of death. Experiment 1 demonstrated that Dutch participants who were reminded of their death expressed greater optimism about the results of the national soccer team compared to a control condition. Experiment 2 conceptually replicated this finding with American participants and college sports teams. In addition, Experiment 2 tested the hypothesis that success of a team is a prerequisite for sports fan affiliation to function as a buffer against death concerns. Before the college football season began, participants who were reminded about death expressed greater relative preference for a more salient, but less successful college football team over a national college champion basketball team compared to control participants. However, after the football team lost its first game of the season, participants who were reminded about death indicated greater relative preference for the successful basketball team. Results are discussed with regard to the psychological function of social identifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-835
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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