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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Sep;91(3):553-67.

Terror management and religion: evidence that intrinsic religiousness mitigates worldview defense following mortality salience.

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Department of Psychology, Social Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Munich, Germany.


Terror management theory suggests that people cope with awareness of death by investing in some kind of literal or symbolic immortality. Given the centrality of death transcendence beliefs in most religions, the authors hypothesized that religious beliefs play a protective role in managing terror of death. The authors report three studies suggesting that affirming intrinsic religiousness reduces both death-thought accessibility following mortality salience and the use of terror management defenses with regard to a secular belief system. Study 1 showed that after a naturally occurring reminder of mortality, people who scored high on intrinsic religiousness did not react with worldview defense, whereas people low on intrinsic religiousness did. Study 2 specified that intrinsic religious belief mitigated worldview defense only if participants had the opportunity to affirm their religious beliefs. Study 3 illustrated that affirmation of religious belief decreased death-thought accessibility following mortality salience only for those participants who scored high on the intrinsic religiousness scale. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that only those people who are intrinsically vested in their religion derive terror management benefits from religious beliefs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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