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Br J Soc Psychol. 2013 Dec;52(4):648-66. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.2012.02115.x. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Creatureliness priming reduces aggression and support for war.

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Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USAUnion College, Schenectady, New York, USAJohnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina, USAUniversity of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USAUniversity of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.


Terror management theory (TMT) posits that humans distance themselves from, or elevate themselves above, other animals as a way of denying their mortality. The present studies assessed whether the salience of aggressive tendencies that humans share with other animals make thoughts of death salient and whether depicting human aggression as animalistic can mitigate aggressive behaviour and support for aggression. In Study 1, participants primed with human-animal similarities (i.e., human creatureliness) exhibited elevated death-thought accessibility (DTA) after hitting a punching bag. In Studies 2a and 2b, creatureliness priming caused participants to hit a punching bag with less frequency, perceived force, and comfort. In Study 3, participants primed to view violence as animalistic exhibited increased DTA and reported less support for war against Iran. These studies suggest that portraying violence as creaturely may reduce the intensity of aggressive actions and support for violent solutions to international conflicts.

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