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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Jan;76(1):35-45.

The impact of mortality salience on reckless driving: a test of terror management mechanisms.

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Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.


A series of 4 studies, based on terror management theory (TMT), examined the effects of mortality salience on risk taking while driving. In all the studies, participants (N = 603) reported on the relevance of driving to their self-esteem. Then half of them were exposed to various mortality salience inductions, and the remaining to a control condition. The dependent measures were either self-reported behavioral intentions of risky driving or driving speed in a car simulator. In Study 4, half of the participants in each condition received positive feedback about their quality of driving. Findings showed that mortality salience inductions led to more risky driving than the control condition only among individuals who perceived driving as relevant to their self-esteem. The introduction of positive feedback about driving eliminated this effect. The results were discussed in light of the self-enhancing mechanisms proposed by TMT.

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