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

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?

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 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.

Planned Parenthood Attack: Criminal as Terrorist

If not Planned Parenthood, then something else?

How Terrorist Attacks Influence Consumer Behaviors

By triggering twin consumption impulses to seek safety and to live life to the fullest, terrorist attacks have adverse effects on business & the environment.

Confronting Evil, Again

When we see photographs of the terrorists, they often look as affable as their victims. Shouldn’t they appear as something different? Pamela Katz discusses how Hannah Arendt’s genius was in recognizing the everyday nature of evil.

How You Can Stop the Next Terrorist

Like most of the world, I felt fearful, angry and initially, powerless, as the news of the terrorism in Paris emerged. I asked myself, what can I do to stop terrorism? What can one person do to stop the madness? The answer came - plenty.

Insight into Extremism and the Terrorist Mentality

By Robert Firestone Ph.D. on November 25, 2015 in The Human Experience
What are the psychodynamics behind extremism, absolutism and all insidious forms of polarization? On some level, the answers all relate to human beings’ inherent fear of death and their need for psychological defenses to deny or ease the endemic pain of the human condition.

Explaining Americans' Reluctance to Accept Syrian Refugees

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on November 25, 2015 in Presence of Mind
The Syrian conflict has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII yet over fifty percent of Americans oppose Syrian resettlement in the United States. Terror management theory, the principle of moral exclusion, and the study of prosocial behavior help explain why.

The Psychology of Terrorism

By Ray Williams on November 21, 2015 in Wired for Success
We need to restrain ourselves from retributive justice and focus on restorative justice, one not fueled by vengeance.

5 Reasons Bad Guys Always Seem to Win (and How to Stop Them)

There are specific psychological reasons why bad people are able to exploit others to their advantage, and part of the problem is our tolerance for bad behavior, and an unwillingness to intervene. There is more that we can do to stop the bad and promote the good.