terror management theory

Terror Management Theory(TMT):

Terror management theory was originally proposed by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski which is based upon Earnest Becker‘s concept.

Terror management theory suggests a fundamental psychological battle that results in using a self-surviving instinct,

even while realizing that death is inevitable and also to some degree inconsistent.

This battle generates terror, and the dread is then handled by adopting cultural worth, or emblematic systems which behave to Give life with Suffering significance and value.

Terror management theory suggests that we are motivated to create close relationships inside our own cultural category as a way to truly feel immortal, to convince ourselves that we shall somehow go on, even if only symbolically, even after our death which is inevitable.

Earnest Becker -“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity—activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.”

terror management theory

Terror management theory and psychology:

terror management theory is related to social psychology or coalition(group) psychology.

Social psychology is the scientific study of how human’s behavior, feelings, thoughts are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied the presence of the others.

There is an evolutionary tendency to seek safety in groups (coalitions) as a reaction to adaptive threats. People already a part of a group seek to protect their membership by exhibiting their value to the group.

Terror management theory theorists answer by arguing that it does not explain why cultural worldview defense is symbolic, involving allegiance to both specific and general systems of abstract meaning unrelated to specific threats, rather than focused on the specific adaptive threats it supposedly evolved to deal with.


Terror management theory and self-esteem:

Self-esteem is a fundamental aspect of terror management theory. TMT not only tries to explain the causes and consequences of the need for self-esteem but also explains its effects.

According to TMT, self-esteem is a sense of personal value that is created by beliefs in the validity of one’s cultural worldview, and the belief that one is living up to the cultural standards created by that worldview.

It has been demonstrated that self-esteem can play an important role in physical health. In some cases, people may be so concerned with their physical appearance and boosting their self-esteem that they ignore problems or concerns with their own physical health.


criticisms of terror management theory:

several psychologists especially evolutionary psychologist have argued on this topic.

Since findings on mortality salience and worldview defense were first published, people argue that this effect may have been because of anxiety or fear for pain instead of fear of death.

Some theorists have argued that it is not the idea of death and non-existence that is unsettling to people, but the fact that uncertainty is involved.

TMT theorists agree that uncertainty can be disconcerting in some cases and it may even result in defense responses, but note that they believe the inescapability of death and the possibility of its finality regarding one’s existence is most unsettling.


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what is terror management theory (TMT)?

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