Dead-set against it? : thoughts of death can promote resistance to attitude change

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Terror Management Theory (TMT) argues that people experience an underlying sense of 'terror' when presented with their own mortality, causing them to more strongly defend their ideals (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 2000). Although much support exists for this idea, prior research has not specifically investigated whether mortality reminders will enhance individuals' resistance to persuasive attempts that are counter to their existing attitudes. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to examine how reminders of individuals' mortality affect participants' attitudes towards persuasive messages that were pro- or counter-attitudinal. In the presented study, participants' mortality was or was not made salient. Next, participants read a pro- or counter-attitudinal essay regarding a tuition plan that was supported by strong or weak arguments, after which message attitudes were assessed. Results indicated that participants formed more favorable attitudes after reading pro-attitudinal essays and less favorable attitudes after reading counter-attitudinal essays. This effect was particularly pronounced in the mortality salience condition. These results are consistent with TMT in that reminders of mortality lead individuals to resist (i.e., form more unfavorable attitudes) counter-attitudinal persuasive appeals.




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