Psych M.D. - Terror-management Theory


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Term: terror-management theory
Definition (Myers): "proposes that faith in one's worldview and the pursuit of self-esteem provide protection against a deeply rooted fear of death."1
Definition (alternative): "states that the function of self-esteem is to reduce the anxiety of death by relating to and acting in ways that support a culturally based world view."2
Contextual explanation:
The terror management theory was developed in the 1980s by a professor named Sheldon Solomon. Below is a video, where he talks about Earnest Becker's The Denial of Death. Basically, this theory today addresses why people pursue self-esteem and why they have difficulty getting along with others who are different than themselves.

Humans can't avoid death. However, culture diminishes this "terror" of death by providing meaning, and continuity to the lives of humans. Having cultural values enhances feelings of security and self-esteem. Men and women create their own cultural worldview, which keeps them from worrying about the inevitability of death. They go searching for confirmation from the community, that others share their viewpoints. But when people have differing beliefs, humans tend to become violent. Trying to convert other people to believe one's own ideas can turn into a conflict - perhaps a war. So this theory shows how these cultural differences create intergroup bias among groups.

On a more positive note though, this theory explains why humans look for self-esteem and meaning in life. People want to form close relationships with others, to distract themselves from the terror of death. An example that Myers uses in the book is that during 9/11, the occupants trapped in the World Trade Center spent their last minutes calling their loved ones. This was a way for them to think about something they cared about - something other than their unfortunate fate.

Related terms and concepts:
Psych M.D. - Terror-management Theory - The Neuron3 4
Related websites:
Sources: insert WAPA style citations here
  1. Myers, D.G. (2003). Psychology. New York City: Worth Publishers.
  2. Lloyd, T. (2009, November 6). Terror management theory of self esteem. Retrieved from http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/terror_management_theory_of_self_esteem
  3. O'Connor, S. (Producer). (2009). Anxiety [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.thehollough.com/inquiry/theory.php
  4. Pangeaprogress, Initials. (2008, December, 31). Ernest becker: the denial of death (professor solomon) [Television series episode].
Edited by: Jessica
Date of last edit: 11/30



More pages