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Self-sacrifice as self-defense: mortality salience increases efforts to affirm a symbolic immortal self at the expense of the physical self

Self-sacrifice as self-defense: mortality salience increases efforts to affirm a symbolic immortal self at the expense of the physical self
Self-sacrifice as self-defense: mortality salience increases efforts to affirm a symbolic immortal self at the expense of the physical self
The increasing occurrence of suicide bombing attacks highlights a question that has received little direct empirical attention in social psychology. Why are people willing to sacrifice their lives to advance an ideological agenda? The current research suggests that willingness to self-sacrifice reflects efforts to manage death awareness by investing in a symbolic identity that provides some form of immortality. If willingness to self-sacrifice is a response to death awareness then increasing the salience of death thoughts should lead to an increase in willingness to self-sacrifice for a death-transcending symbolic identity (e.g. one's nation). Further, if self-sacrifice after mortality salience (MS) is a striving for symbolic immortality then having participants imagine an alternative way to transcend death should moderate this effect. Support for these hypotheses was found as MS increased willingness of British participants to self-sacrifice for England, but only when an alternative route to symbolic immortality was not provided. Implications are briefly discussed.
0046-2772
531-534
Routledge, Clay
c1e0088a-3cc4-4d54-bbd3-de7d286429d8
Arndt, Jamie
9f74041c-58f9-43b5-96f1-19dda49b7d87
Routledge, Clay
c1e0088a-3cc4-4d54-bbd3-de7d286429d8
Arndt, Jamie
9f74041c-58f9-43b5-96f1-19dda49b7d87

Routledge, Clay and Arndt, Jamie (2007) Self-sacrifice as self-defense: mortality salience increases efforts to affirm a symbolic immortal self at the expense of the physical self. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38 (3), 531-534. (doi:10.1002/ejsp.442).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The increasing occurrence of suicide bombing attacks highlights a question that has received little direct empirical attention in social psychology. Why are people willing to sacrifice their lives to advance an ideological agenda? The current research suggests that willingness to self-sacrifice reflects efforts to manage death awareness by investing in a symbolic identity that provides some form of immortality. If willingness to self-sacrifice is a response to death awareness then increasing the salience of death thoughts should lead to an increase in willingness to self-sacrifice for a death-transcending symbolic identity (e.g. one's nation). Further, if self-sacrifice after mortality salience (MS) is a striving for symbolic immortality then having participants imagine an alternative way to transcend death should moderate this effect. Support for these hypotheses was found as MS increased willingness of British participants to self-sacrifice for England, but only when an alternative route to symbolic immortality was not provided. Implications are briefly discussed.

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Published date: 2007

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 44999
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/44999
ISSN: 0046-2772
PURE UUID: c7d88e07-d3b8-4b93-ae0e-e9f3be08292c

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Date deposited: 29 Jul 2008
Last modified: 08 Jan 2022 12:59

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Contributors

Author: Clay Routledge
Author: Jamie Arndt

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