Mortality Salience and the Spreading Activation of Worldview-Relevant Constructs: Exploring the Cognitive Architecture of Terror Management

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Seven experiments assessed the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that reminding people of their mortality would increase accessibility of constructs central to their worldview. Experiment 1 found that mortality primes, relative to control primes, increased accessibility of nationalistic constructs for men but not for women. Experiment 2 replicated this finding and also found that mortality salience increased romantic accessibility for women but not for men. Four subsequent experiments supported the role of unconscious death-related ideation in producing these effects. A final experiment demonstrated that situational primes can increase the accessibility of nationalistic constructs for women after mortality salience. The roles of situational cues and individual differences in the effects of exposure to death-related stimuli on worldview-relevant construct accessibility are discussed.

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