A Function of Form: Terror Management and Structuring the Social World

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terror management; social information structuring; death-related anxiety management; mortality salience; representative information; inconsistent behavior; personal need for structure; causal order

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Drawing on lay epistemology theory (A. W. Kruglanski, 1980, 1989), the authors assessed a terror management analysis (J. Greenberg, S. Solomon, & T. Pyszczynski, 1997) of the psychological function of structuring social information. Seven studies tested variations of the hypothesis that simple, benign interpretations of social information function, in part, to manage death-related anxiety. In Studies 1-4, mortality salience (MS) exaggerated primacy effects and reliance on representative information, decreased preference for a behaviorally inconsistent target among those high in personal need for structure (PNS), and increased high-PNS participants' preference for interpersonal balance. In Studies 5-7, MS increased high-PNS participants' preference for interpretations that suggest a just world and a benevolent causal order of events in the social world.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 87, issue 2, p. 190-210