Relationship Between Health and Reactivity to Mortality Salience




Swanson, Jeffrey Nathanael

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The Mortality Salience (MS) postulate of Terror Management Theory states that subtle reminders of death increase an individual's attempts at identifying and aligning themselves with their cultural groups and values, an affect unique to MS (termed worldview defense; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986). Evidence for negative effects of worldview defense include health-related effects such as the willingness to participate in risky sexual behaviors and risky scuba dives, increased aggression, and increased racism, among others (Greenberg, Schimel, Martens, Solomon, & Pyszcznyski, 2001; Miller & Taubman—Ben-Ari, 2004; Taubman—Ben-Ari, 2004). Research on relationships between MS and health is a relatively new area, and little is known of the effect of reactivity to a stimulus in response to MS. The author hypothesized that the amount of reaction to noise startle during an MS induction procedure will be more related to health variables than the amount of reaction to noise startle during an anxiety induction procedure. Either MS or anxiety was induced in individuals, 34 of which gave valid responses to noise bursts after induction. Reactivity to noise startles between MS or anxiety groups were measured via Skin Conductance Response, and regressions were performed in an attempt to predict reactivity to MS based on health better than reactivity to anxiety based on health. Several health variables significantly predicted reactivity to MS and reactivity to anxiety; however, none of these significant predictors were more related to MS than anxiety. Therefore, results of the study did not support the hypothesis.



Mortality salience, Terror management theory, Health, Death, Skin conductance, Quality of life, Locus of control.


Swanson, J. N. (2006). <i>Relationship between health and reactivity to mortality salience</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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