Blowing in the (Social) Wind: Implications of Extrinsic Esteem Contingencies for Terror Management and Health

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Abstract

In 4 studies, the role of extrinsic esteem contingencies in adjusting to shifting health-relevant standards when managing existential fears was examined. Study 1 demonstrated that after reminders of death, higher dispositional focus on extrinsic self-esteem contingencies predicted greater interest in tanning. Using a more domain-specific approach, Study 2 showed that, after being reminded of death, the more individuals smoke for social esteem reasons, the more compelling they find an antismoking commercial that exposes adverse social consequences of smoking. Study 3 explored how situational factors (i.e., priming a contingent relational schema) that implicate extrinsic contingencies facilitated the impact of shifting standard primes on tanning intentions after mortality salience. Finally, Study 4 found that mortality salience led to increased endorsement of exercise as a basis of self-worth when participants who derive self-esteem from extrinsic sources visualized someone who exercises. Together, these studies demonstrate that reminders of death interact with prevalent social standards to influence everyday health decisions.

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