Terror Management and Human Social Motivation (Theories of social…
Terror Management and Human Social Motivation
Terror Management Theory (TMT):
Humans are aware of the inevitability of their mortality, and this gives rise to potential paralyzing terror, which makes goal-directed behavior impossible. This terror is managed by a dual-component cultural anxiety buffer:
Personal version of cultural worldview
: concepts for understanding the world and your place in that world.
: knowing that you are living up to the standards that are part of this cultural worldview.
Two basic hypotheses derived from this theory:
: if a psychological structure protects you against anxiety, than strengthening that should make you less prone to anxiety and weakening it should make you more prone to anxiety.
mortality salience hypothesis
: if a psychological structure protects against anxiety, then reminding people of the source of this anxiety (e.g., death) should increase the need for that structure.
So, self-esteem and cultural worldviews play a role in controlling anxiety that results from the awareness of one's own mortality.
People don't think about death that often
Still, death has an ongoing influence on a broad range of socially important behavior, also unconsciously.
Tripartite model of basic human motive systems
: psychological needs are rooted in the pursuit of self-esteem and faith in the cultural worldview. They protect us from the fear of death. This fear serves the instinct of
: basic adaptation that functions to keep our genes in the running (the
). All behavior is oriented toward this goal. There are three main motivational systems that serve to facilitate survival:
: basic biological processes and behavior that keep us alive; food, warmth, oxygen, blood sugar etc, maintaining Homeostasis (
direct means of self-preservation
: the pursuit of meaning and value, faith in cultural worldview & self-esteem (
symbolic means of self-prservation
: Growth and expansion of one's capacities, which greatly increases the animals chances of surviving long enough to reproduce.
Social motives are organized hierarchically
: abstract goals are at the top and concrete ones at the bottom.
Theories of social motivation
: people want to minimize inconsistencies (cognitive dissonance) to diminish the threat to the individual's sense of value and motivates defense to restore that sense of value. It is an important mechanism to sustain self-esteem.
Belief in a just world:
people want to believe that the world is a fair place. This makes the world seem safer and less frightening, and makes it possible for self-esteem to provide its anxiety-buffering function. From TMT perspective, just world beliefs are seen as part of the cultural worldview that provides protection from existential terror.
Objective self-awareness and self-regulation
: Self-awareness theories say that when attention is focused on the self, people are motivated to reduce discrepancies between current state and salient standards. From TMT perspective, this attempt to meet either one's own or the audience's standards is an attempt to attain self-esteem by meeting cultural standards of value.
Self-esteem and positive social identity
: accepting a cultural conception of reality and believing that you are living op to the standards of that conception. people seek self-esteem because of the protection from anxiety that self-esteem provides.
: because people need a consistent understanding of themselves for effective functioning, they employ a variety of self-verification strategies to confirm their existing self-images. From TMT perspective, (most) people pursue validation of their positive self-images because of the role that such self-conceptions play in controlling anxiety.
Theories of self-presentation and impression management
: People are highly dependent on each other for many outcomes in life. Because of this dependence on others, people are strongly motivated to control the impressions that others form of them. From TMT perspective, impression management behavior is seen as helping us validate or verify one aspect of the cultural anxiety buffer, self-esteem.