Windows into nothingness: Terror management, meaninglessness, and negative reactions to modern art

Mark J. Landau, Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, Tom Pyszczynski, Andy Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

125 Scopus citations

Abstract

Why do people dislike art that they find meaningless? According to terror management theory, maintaining a basic meaningful view of reality is a key prerequisite for managing concerns about mortality. Therefore, mortality salience should decrease liking for apparently meaningless art, particularly among those predisposed to unambiguous knowledge. Accordingly, mortality salience diminished affection for modern art in Study 1, and this effect was shown in Study 2 to be specific to individuals with a high personal need for structure (PNS). In Studies 3 and 4, mortality salient high-PNS participants disliked modern art unless it was imbued with meaning, either by means of a title or a personal frame of reference induction. Discussion focused on the roles of meaninglessness, PNS, and art in terror management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-892
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume90
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006

Keywords

  • Aesthetic judgments
  • Art
  • Meaning
  • Need for structure
  • Terror management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Windows into nothingness: Terror management, meaninglessness, and negative reactions to modern art'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this