What Is Terror Management Theory?

The terror refered to in terror management theory (TMT) is that which is brought on by the awareness of the inevitible death of the self. According to TMT, the anxiety caused by mortality is a major motivator behind many human behaviors and cognitions, including self-esteem, ethno/religio-centrism, and even love.

Recent Posts on Terror Management Theory

Does Utopia Have Hospitals?

By Neal Roese Ph.D. on July 22, 2015 in In Hindsight
Utopia is the idea of a perfect society. Does Utopia have hospitals? As America struggles with how best to manage its health care system, we might ask how things would look in a society perfected.

Charleston: 8 Questions About Race and Guns for Republicans

By Stanton Peele on June 19, 2015 in Addiction in Society
Can we try to get beyond the meaningless banalities uttered by politicians following the Charleston mass murder, with a gun, by a probable racist?

Encounters with Dead Pets: A Study of the Evolution of Grief

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on June 17, 2015 in Animals and Us
Bereaved pet owners sometimes think they have seen or heard their dead dogs or cats. Here's what these errors reveal about the evolutionary functions of grief.

Fetishism and the Thirst for More Life

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on June 16, 2015 in A Swim in Denial
Fetishism feels that certain people and things have power to protect us. Big money and big shots exert an uncanny fascination, so do lovers and religious symbols. Whether you call it fetishism, transference, or fandom, it’s magic and shapes us. The psychology of abandon investigates fetishism because our idols seem larger than life and beyond everyday constraints.

Embracing Diversity to Counter Extremism

By Po Chi Wu Ph.D. on June 04, 2015 in Jacob's Staff
Are we hard-wired to prefer simplistic views of the world? What does it take to keep an open mind? What might happen if we acknowledge and celebrate the richness of diverse talents and points of view? Can we, at the same time, embrace similarities and differences in people from other cultures and beliefs?

Thinking about Death and Pain Makes People Funnier

Death anxiety may promotes humor creativity

Uneasy about the Afterlife: Prejudice, Atheism, and Humility

According to new research, atheists can threaten a person’s confidence in an afterlife, and this may be a factor in widespread prejudices against atheists. According to terror management theory most people defend against their dread of mortality in ways that generate intolerance. Cultivating a humble attitude might ease death's sting and reduce prejudice.

How Is Education Becoming Irrelevant - Education vs Learning

By Po Chi Wu Ph.D. on May 01, 2015 in Jacob's Staff
What's wrong with the way we think about education? How are corporations dealing with Millennials? Do you feel that the significance of what you know is decreasing at an exponential rate? How can we cope? How is the Knowledge Economy fundamentally different from the Industrial Economy? What are the implications of a Sharing Economy?

A Palestinian Gandhi

By Izzy Kalman on April 21, 2015 in Resilience to Bullying
Where are the "Palestinian Gandhis"? Ali Abu Awwad is a one of them, and there are more. However, we don't hear about them, and their effectiveness is limited, because the media are more attracted to violence than nonviolence. Thus, rather than helping promote peace, reporters unwittingly encourage violent activism.

PTSD and Panic Disorder, the Huge Difference

By Hal Mathew on April 21, 2015 in Unagoraphobic
Eternal vigilance is the price of PTSD and panic disorder

Murder in a Locked Room:

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on March 29, 2015 in A Swim in Denial
In a paradox worthy of Greek tragedy, the fortified cockpit door to Germanwings Flight 9525 invited the mass murder it was meant to prevent. Can we make sense of a co-pilot’s rampage?

What Do Scientists Know About Finding a Purpose in Life?

By Todd B Kashdan Ph.D. on February 24, 2015 in Curious?
Providing information on the science of a purpose in life. heavy, beautiful, and of paramount importance

What are the 3 Most Useful Bits of Wisdom for Life? Part 1

If there were 2 or 3 kernels of wisdom you think a parent should pass on to his kid, what would they be? I would actually like to hear from you, and from some sage older person you regard as having lived a fulfilling life.

To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal

By Clay Routledge Ph.D. on November 12, 2014 in More Than Mortal
Research suggests that the awareness of mortality drives us to find meaning, and that meaning protects our health and well-being.

How Ebola Won The Election for Conservatives

There's a natural fit between concerns and political values. Where liberals are the party of promotion, conservative are the party of protection. So why should democrats emphasize Ebola in their election campaign? Simply put, they shouldn't... ever, and paid the cost. The psychology of why this is so is covered here.

Are you suffering from Ebola-overload?

Are you suffering from Ebola-panic?

Ebola and the Vaccine Effect

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on October 20, 2014 in A Swim in Denial
Encountering threats, we’re often vaccinating ourselves. Bad news spurs us to imagine how we could avoid such a fate. Consciously or not, we’re testing the threat, discounting it, taking it apart, desensitizing ourselves. In the process, we’re building up defenses against it as antibodies do. In the wisdom of slang, we’re building up our “resistance.”

The Neglected Link Among World Crises

By Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D. on September 12, 2014 in Awakening to Awe
From a depth psychological ("awe-based") view, Why are people violent with one another and what steps can we take to address the problem?

The Peril Is Not Mental Illness but the Polarized Mind

There is a reason that many of the most twisted and destructive people on this planet are not seen as “mental patients.” They tend to be ordinary or even celebrated individuals—and their brains are as “normal” as the rest of us. Does this not tell us something glaring about the inadequacy of our current diagnostic system, as well as the culture out of which it arises?

The Psychology of Death

By Steve Taylor Ph.D. on February 07, 2014 in Out of the Darkness
Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – help us to live authentically and fully.

The Psychology of "YOLO"

By Nathan A Heflick Ph.D. on September 21, 2013 in The Big Questions
Decades of research provides a deeper understanding of the pros and cons to the mantra "YOLO."

Twitter and Mortality: To Tweet or not to Tweet?

A great deal of Twitter content has been described as "pointless babble". However, for some people, particularly extraverts, Twitter usage might work to alleviate existential anxiety caused by reminders of one's own mortality. Apparently "pointless" communiques might serve to affirm an extravert's existence, although introverts seem to prefer a quieter approach.

Seeing Red

By Matt Huston on September 18, 2012 in Brainstorm
Images of destruction induce our minds to think about death, the researchers write, and in response, we hold on more closely to our beliefs.

TSA Moderately Liked, Despite Everything

By Thomas J. Leeper PhD on August 08, 2012 in Polarized
How could an agency subject to consistently negative publicity and that seems to be loathed by nearly everyone who travels possibly be viewed in a positive light by most Americans?

What Underlies Physician Compassion?

Terror Management Theory may explain why some physicians are compassionate.

We are not Animals!

What does a fear of death have to do with harming non-human animals? Why do humans have a strong, pervasive tendency to think that they are not animals?

How We Cope With Death

How do humans cope with thoughts of their own death? Decades of research based on terror management theory has addressed this very question.

Creating Meaning by Facing Our Mortality

Our fears of mortality can leave us with an urge to retreat from life. Yet, this knowledge has the power to do just the opposite, to inspire us to live life full steam ahead, pursuing our most meaningful goals, staying close to our loved ones, and living with integrity, self-esteem, and purpose.

Dark Tourism

By Bruce Hood Ph.D. on May 15, 2012 in The Self Illusion
There are tourists who want to visit sites associated with death—why?

Are There Really No Atheists in Foxholes?

By Matthew Hutson on May 11, 2012 in Psyched!
It’s often said that there are no atheists in foxholes. While this isn’t technically true—a group called The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers even keeps a roster of them—new research suggests that inducing fear of death at least makes atheists a little less entrenched in their beliefs.