Terror management theory and self-esteem: evidence that increased self-esteem reduces mortality salience effects

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Jan;72(1):24-36. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.1.24.


On the basis of the terror management theory proposition that self-esteem provides protection against concerns about mortality, it was hypothesized that self-esteem would reduce the worldview defense produced by mortality salience (MS). The results of Experiments 1 and 2 confirmed this hypothesis by showing that individuals with high self-esteem (manipulated in Experiment 1; dispositional in Experiment 2) did not respond to MS with increased worldview defense, whereas individuals with moderate self-esteem did. The results of Experiment 3 suggested that the effects of the first 2 experiments may have occurred because high self-esteem facilitates the suppression of death constructs following MS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Culture*
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Psychological Theory
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Conformity