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

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

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 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 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.

Terrorists Want Us to Feel Insecure - 5 Ways to Triumph

By F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W. on November 20, 2015 Off the Couch
5 ways to keep the terrorists from winning.

Terrorism as a Vehicle for the Criminal Personality

The criminality of the individual is primary.

Psychology Of How War With Islamic State Becomes A Just War

Professor Fotion points out that another ancient Chinese philosopher, Mo Tzu (470 – 391 BC) distinguished between three kinds of war, which again ominously, but unerringly, predicts modern hostilities in the Middle East. Mo Tzu contends that any analysis of whether a war is ‘just’ or not depends on whether you are engaged in a war of aggression, punishment or self-defence.

How to Survive the Paris Terrorist Attack

After happened in Paris, I drank a half bottle of wine, ate carbs, and didn’t want to come out of bed. But, in an ordinary day, an act of kindness changed everything. Here is my very personal blog about how terrorism affects us and the choices we can make not to sink into a depression.

Psychology Suggests a Surprising Reason for Homicide?

Brendan O'Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi point out in their study that homicide is the second most important reason for the racial gap in life expectancy in the USA: eliminating homicide would do more to equalize African-American and white life expectancy, than eradicating any other cause of death except cardiovascular disease.

"Inquisitr" Faux News Report Terrifies An Anxious Flier

The headline says, "Chicago-Bound Flight Diverted After United Express Airline Flight's 10,000 Foot Drop." The story calls this as "a minor accident." The plane did not drop. This was not an accident. The plane was flown - completely under control - to a lower altitude where pressurization was not needed.

Does Utopia Have Hospitals?

By Neal Roese Ph.D. on July 22, 2015 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

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 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

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 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 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 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 Unagoraphobic
Eternal vigilance is the price of PTSD and panic disorder

Murder in a Locked Room:

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 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 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 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.”