Terror Management Theory and Gender 

Erica Dorman, Destiny Cox and Dr. Melissa Soenke


Terror management theory explains human’s unique relationship with death based on the knowledge and fear that we will eventually die (Pyszczynski et al., 2012). This knowledge of death creates the potential for anxiety, which is resolved through people’s cultural worldviews which provides purpose and self-esteem (Greenberg et al., 2014). Previous findings indicate that reminders of death increase ingroup bias and identification (Castano et al., 2002; Harmon-Jones et al., 1996; Fritsche & Jonas, 2005; Arndt et al., 2002). One group that has demonstrated these ingroup effects is gender. In Fritsche and Jonas (2005), reminders of death were found to lead to an increase in pro-women attitudes in women and a decrease in pro-women attitudes in men. Women also showed an increased ingroup bias. Arndt et al. (2002) also found that women identified more with their group after mortality salience. However, the previous research has been lacking in gender inclusivity. The current study aims to expand on the understanding of group identification and disidentification of gender minorities as a reference group. Disidentification occurs when an individual separates themselves from their in-group because of stereotype threats or negative primes that highlight negative behaviors from their in-group. To gain a better understanding of mortality salience’s impact on identification and disidentification, this study investigated gender in a more inclusive way. Arndt et al. (2002) found that negative behaviors by one’s group can lead to disidentification. Participants were recruited using the SONA system from CSUCI Psychology classes and students received course credit or extra credit for participation. Participants completed a series of questionnaires online using Qualtrics. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a reminder of death or a control prime as well as a gender prime that included mention of transphobia, or a neutral control prime.


Session 2 – 3:00p.m. – 4:15p.m.

Room C – Sierra 2411