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Terror Management Theory

Definition

Terror management theory is an empirically supported theory developed to explain the psychological functions of self-esteem and culture. The theory proposes that people strive to sustain the belief they are significant contributors to a meaningful universe to minimize the potential for terror engendered by their awareness of their own mortality. Cultures provide their members with meaning-imbuing worldviews and bases of selfesteem to serve this terror management function.

Background

Former University of Kansas graduate student colleagues Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski developed terror management theory in 1984. These social psychologists were searching for answers to two basic questions about human behavior: Why do people need self-esteem? Why do different cultures have such a difficult time coexisting peacefully? The trio found potential answers to these questions in ...

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