Testing the Death Thought Suppression and Rebound Hypothesis

  title={Testing the Death Thought Suppression and Rebound Hypothesis},
  author={David Trafimow and Jamie S Hughes},
  journal={Social Psychological and Personality Science},
  pages={622 - 629}
It is an important hypothesis of terror management theory that death thoughts are suppressed immediately following a mortality salience treatment but that, after a short delay during which suppression ceases, death thoughts become more accessible. Although there is much indirect empirical support for this idea, there are few direct tests. Our goal was to test this hypothesis with simple experiments. Thus, after mortality was made salient, death thought accessibility was measured immediately or… 

Tables from this paper

Inhibition Underlies the Effect of High Need for Closure on Cultural Closed-Mindedness under Mortality Salience
This research is the first to establish an empirical link between very basic, neurally-instantiated inhibitory processes and rather complex, higher-order manifestations of intergroup negativity in response to MS.
The Method Behind the Science
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Mortality Salience, Death-Thought Accessibility, and Self-Forgiveness
  • J. McConnell
  • Psychology
    Basic and Applied Social Psychology
  • 2018
Abstract Terror management theory claims the quintessential indicator of cultural adherence is human self-esteem, and self-esteem is vital to suppressing death-thoughts into the unconscious to buffer
Mortality salience effects fail to replicate in traditional and novel measures
Mortality salience (MS) effects, where death reminders lead to ingroup-bias and defensive protection of one’s worldview, have been claimed to be a fundamental human motivator. MS phenomena have been
The grim reasoner: Analytical reasoning under mortality salience
The human species enjoys uniquely developed capacities for analytical reasoning and rational decision making, but these capacities come with a price: They make us aware of our inevitable physical
Effects of Mortality Salience on Physiological Arousal
A comprehensive picture is drawn of how physiological arousal develops over time in the mortality salience (MS) paradigm, and whether contemplating one’s mortality actually elicits more physiological arousal than reflecting on a death-unrelated aversive control topic.
Exploring the Self-Referent Meaning Mechanisms of Terror Management Theory and Socioemotional Selectivity Theory
Two theories of mortality threat management propose distinct psychological mechanisms to cope with mortality concerns. Terror management theory suggests death prompts existential concern whereas


Suppression, accessibility of death-related thoughts, and cultural worldview defense: exploring the psychodynamics of terror management.
Study 3 demonstrated that worldview defense in response to MS reduces the delayed increase in death accessibility, suggesting that a person's initial response to conscious thoughts of mortality is to actively suppress death thoughts.
Clarifying the Function of Mortality Salience-Induced Worldview Defense: Renewed Suppression or Reduced Accessibility of Death-Related Thoughts?
Previous terror management research has shown that following mortality salience, there is an effortful suppression of death-related thoughts, reducing death-thought accessibility. This is followed,
Role of consciousness and accessibility of death-related thoughts in mortality salience effects.
Findings suggest that mortality salience effects are unique to thoughts of death and occur primarily when such thoughts are highly accessible but outside of consciousness.
Connecting Terror Management and Dissonance Theory: Evidence that Mortality Salience Increases the Preference for Supporting Information after Decisions
The authors found that following mortality salience, people indeed showed an increased preference for information that supported their decision compared to information conflicting with it, but this only occurred with regard to a worldview-relevant decision case.
Reexploring the Connection Between Terror Management Theory and Dissonance Theory
The findings, obtained using the historically preeminent paradigm for assessing dissonance reduction, provide firm support for the notion that MS amplifies concerns with cognitive consistency.
Mortality salience and the spreading activation of worldview-relevant constructs: exploring the cognitive architecture of terror management.
Seven experiments assessed the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that reminding people of their mortality would increase accessibility of constructs central to their worldview and demonstrated that situational primes can increase the accessibility of nationalistic constructs for women after mortality salience.
Evidence for terror management theory: I. The effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who violate or uphold cultural values.
It is shown that the mortality salience effect does not result from heightened self-awareness or physiological arousal, and implications for the role of fear of death in social behavior are discussed.
A dual-process model of defense against conscious and unconscious death-related thoughts: an extension of terror management theory.
Proximal defenses, which entail suppressing death-related thoughts or pushing the problem of death into the distant future by denying one's vulnerability, are rational, threat-focused, and activated when thoughts of death are in current focal attention.
Two Decades of Terror Management Theory: A Meta-Analysis of Mortality Salience Research
A meta-analysis was conducted on empirical trials investigating the mortality salience (MS) hypothesis of terror management theory, finding moderate effects on a range of worldview- and self-esteem-related dependent variables (DVs).
Terror management and tolerance: does mortality salience always intensify negative reactions to others who threaten one's worldview?
Mortality salience did not lead to negative reactions to the critic when the value of tolerance was highly accessible and, under mortality-salient or control conditions, Ss evaluated a target person who criticized the United States.