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

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

Hope Floats

Must death leave us feeling hopelessly mortal?

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

Does Cyber-Terrorism Terrorize? Hormones Suggest It Does

By Gregg Murray Ph.D. on February 08, 2015 in Caveman Politics
Think cyber-terrorism can't happen to you? Think it doesn't "hurt" anyone? Ask the 3,800 employees of Sony Pictures, including some of its stars, who got caught up in the international political intrigue over the company's movie, The Interview. And see what one study shows that cyber-terror does to our hormones.

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?

Why Isn’t Anyone Calling This Terrorism?

On April 13, Frazier Glenn Miller opened fire outside of a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City, killing 3. The word terrorism hasn’t been used and the term ‘hate crime’ has been tentatively applied. Would it have been different if the attack involved bombs that he learned to make in an online magazine? What about if he shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ rather than ‘Heil Hitler?'

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?

Why It's Okay to Take Things for Granted (Sometimes)

By Juliana Breines Ph.D. on February 26, 2014 in In Love and War
Taking life for granted once in awhile isn't necessarily something we should feel bad about. It may even be essential to our mental health.

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.

Killing and the Vicious Imagination

Is Bales a “bad apple” or a prisoner of a system that encourages vicious imagination?

The Body Problem

"Don't ask, don't tell" seems to be the dominant ideology when it comes to bodily functions, which are all too often a source of shame and disgust. What exactly are we so afraid of?

Blurred Moral Vision (The Psychology of Killing – Part 2)

By Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. on April 22, 2012 in Moral Landscapes
Have you noticed how situations and systems influence your morality?