The Body as a Source of Self-Esteem: The Effects of Mortality Salience on Identification with One’s Body, the Appeal of Sex, and Appearance Monitoring

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reminders of mortality, identification with physical body & appeal of physical sex & physical appearance monitoring, 16–55 yr olds with high vs low body esteem, test of terror management hypothesis

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The present research investigated the role of the physical body as a source of self-esteem and tested the hypothesis derived from terror management theory that reminding people of their mortality increases self-esteem striving in the form of identification with one's body, interest in sex, and appearance monitoring. The results revealed that individuals high in body esteem responded to mortality salience manipulations with increased identification with their physical bodies in Study 1 and with increased interest in sex in Study 2. Study 3 showed that reminders of death led to decreased appearance monitoring among appearance-oriented participants who were low in body esteem. These findings provide insight into why people often go to extreme lengths to meet cultural standards for the body and its appearance.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 79, issue 1, p. 118-130