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 inevitable 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

The Impact of Death on our Everyday Lives

Defensive reactions to personal trauma, separation issues, and especially death anxiety impact our lives at three distinct levels.

Freedom vs. Security in Z Nation's Zombie Apocalypse

Z Nation, Syfy's road trip adventure set in a zombie apocalypse, turns darker and explores Erich Fromm's "basic human dilemma," freedom vs. security. Is freedom worth the fear?

Groping for Sex and More Life

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on October 04, 2016 in A Swim in Denial
Terror Management Theory (TMT) offers a scientific way of understanding the spellbinding effects of Donald Trump's fantasies..

Unwavering and Too Proud of It

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 12, 2016 in Ambigamy
Don't mistake poor impulse control for uncompromising principle.

On Being a Weird American on 9/11

By Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D. on September 11, 2016 in Intentional Insights
Do you ever struggle with your identity as an American? A simple reframing can really help!

Calm-onomics: The Everyday Economics of Stress Prevention

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 06, 2016 in Ambigamy
Life is an inherently anxious affair. This creates high demand for ways to keep anxiety at bay. Here's a behavioral-economic analysis of demand for and supply of ways to stay calm.

Are You One of Us?

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on August 31, 2016 in A Swim in Denial
The cognitive process of naming things comes with surprising—sometimes painful—liabilities.

Terrorism: Criminality in Search of a Target

Focus on the personality, not the after-the-fact justification

Atrocity in the City of Nice: An Act of Clinical Insanity?

In Europe, ‘lone wolf’ attacks quadrupled between the 1970s and the 2000s.

The Walking Traumatized: Is This Life in the 21st Century?

By Erik M. Gregory Ph.D. on July 17, 2016 in The Secular Shepherd
Is the 21st century the era of the Walking Traumatized. Ongoing acts of terrorism with 24/7 news and social media coverage would indicate that the answer is yes.

People, You're Praying Wrong

By Stanton Peele on July 17, 2016 in Addiction in Society
We are failing miserably in the prayers we are offering up to prevent Americans from killing one another. Why is our skill level so miserable in this area and how can we raise it?

The Missing Word Is Panic.

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on July 16, 2016 in A Swim in Denial
When aggression triggers a moral reflex, it can be blinding. We use it routinely to pump up heroic violence.

Tourist Psychology

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on June 26, 2016 in A Swim in Denial
In the prison of habit the tourist dreams of mind-blowing abandon

Silence Is Killing Your LGBT Relatives

All queer people are equally in the crosshairs of homegrown hatred. Our straight families and friends need to recognize this openly and explicitly.

Death, Guns, America

By Clay Routledge Ph.D. on June 17, 2016 in More Than Mortal
Is the existential threat of death preventing us from having an open and honest conversation about guns in America?

Can Celebrity Suicides Lead to Copycat Deaths?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on May 04, 2016 in Media Spotlight
New research explores the cognitive roots of suicide contagion.

Who Can Win the Game of Thrones?

PBS BrainCraft segment looks at psychological issues in HBO's Game of Thrones, particularly the role that self-control might play in determining which character can "win" the game.

Why Trump Would Be the Worst Choice to Deal with ISIS

ISIS recruits who are radicalized and then sent back to their home countries to wage terror are not the same as fighting them in a foreign country. Trump doesn't get this.

A Criminal Personality or So-Called "Radicalization"?

Radicalization does not "happen" to just anyone.

The Psychology Behind The Brussels Terrorists

It appears that a puritanical orientation—restraining the population’s gratification and enjoyment of life—promotes terrorism.

The 5 Benefits of a Mortality Meditation, Part 1

By Gregg Levoy on February 24, 2016 in Passion!
Looked at rightly, the fact of your own mortality can be a blessing not a curse. Here are 5 benefits of understanding you have a use-by date.

Does Psychology Explain North Korea's Recent Missile Launch?

...the essential psychology of small states' nuclear proliferation is completely different from the 'second strike' deterrence that pertained between the US and the Soviet Union...

Training the Brain to Control Negative Emotions

By William R. Klemm Ph.D. on February 03, 2016 in Memory Medic
The human brain contains a distinct network that serves as its executive agent. This network can be trained to develop a more robust capacity for executive control.

Laziness and Procrastination

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on January 13, 2016 in Don't Delay
"I am so lazy." What should we think of this?

Who Wants the End of the World?

By Nathan A Heflick Ph.D. on December 30, 2015 in The Big Questions
Who is drawn to believing in the end of the world?

The Anxiety of Terror and the Fear of Spiders

By Eyal Winter Ph.D. on December 25, 2015 in Feeling Smart
the anxiety coalition between governments, the media and terrorist organizations on the fear of spiders and the fear of terror

Is the Kid Next Door a Terrorist? 12 Questions to Consider

By Michael Ungar Ph.D. on December 16, 2015 in Nurturing Resilience
It’s impossible to predict who will become a terrorist, though there are patterns to young people’s experiences that make acts of violence more likely.

Terrorism, Belief and Psychology

By John Cromby Ph.D. on December 16, 2015 in The Bodies We’re In
Psychology often seems to have relatively little to say about religious and political beliefs, including those associated with terrorism: this article explains why.
Death to the Stock Photo

Domestic Terrorism will not Stop Abortion

By Joanne Bagshaw Ph.D. on December 04, 2015 in The Third Wave
Violence and intimidation don't work to prevent abortion, because domestic terrorism doesn't prevent unwanted pregnancies.

"It Takes More Than Ideology to Compel Violent Action"

By Carrie Barron M.D. on December 03, 2015 in The Creativity Cure
Considering the biological traits and characteristics of people who terrorize and kill. It takes more than ideology to do it.