Terror Management Theory

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Introduction Psych 317

As humans, we are unique from animals in many ways. We have an internal guidance system called a conscience that allows us to think and act in a way close to our deepest values. We have an independent will that does not allow genetic influences or the environment to dictate our actions. We have an infinite creative imagination that allows us to create beyond our reality but perhaps the most uniquely human endowment we all possess is self-awareness. Self-awareness is the recognition of how we feel and how we behave. It also allows us to examine why we exist and ultimately, that we are going to die. While self-preservation is a characteristic to both humans and animals, the understanding of one’s own
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While this study suggests that there is no need to be around similar people during times of vulnerability, the researchers recognize that the individuals in these groups were mere observers and not actually interacting with each other.

Another hypothesis that emerged from TMT research is the anxiety-buffer hypothesis. This hypothesis stresses the importance of high self-esteem and how it can shield individuals from experiencing death anxiety. Individuals with high self-esteem feel that they are an ideal example of their culture and enjoy the protection from the mortality concerns that their culture offers (Hirschberger et al., 2002).

Studies that exemplify the anxiety-buffer hypothesis are those that link TMT and risky sexual behaviors. In a 2004 study, researchers noted that by making mortality salient, a willingness to engage in life-threatening behaviors, such as unsafe sex, was reported (Orit Taubman, Ben-Ari). This study suggests that engaging in risky sex represents two facets of vulnerability related to the threat of death. One is the absolute fear or extermination which is associated to having the risky sex and the other is the need to love and have intimacy, a uniquely human trait that is related to self-esteem. Basically, when faced with mortality, humans yearn to fulfill their basic needs of love, even if that means risking life itself (Orit Taubman,
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