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Terror management in times of war: Mortality salience effects on self-esteem and governmental and army support

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Author Info

  • Armand Chatard

    (Department of Social Psychology, University of Geneva)

  • Leila Selimbegovic

    (Department of Social Psychology, University of Poitiers)

  • Paul N'Dri Konan

    (Department of Social Psychology, University of Geneva)

  • Jamie Arndt

    (Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia)

  • Tom Pyszczynski

    (Department of Social Psychology, University of Colorado, Cobrado)

  • Fabio Lorenzi-Cioldi

    (Department of Social Psychology, University of Geneva)

  • Martial Van der Linden

    (Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Geneva)

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    Abstract

    Previous research has identified economic and political factors that can contribute to the outbreak and the duration of armed conflicts. However, the psychological factors that may play a role in conflict escalation and duration have received less attention. Adopting a psychological perspective, the present study aims to investigate the role of death awareness in the context of an armed conflict. To this aim, basic assumptions derived from Terror Management Theory (TMT) were examined in an African civil war context. According to TMT, people manage awareness of inevitable death by increased striving for self-esteem and increased adherence to their cultural values. Students from the University of Abidjan (Ivory Coast), located in the pro-governmental part of the country, were randomly assigned to a mortality salience or a control condition and completed measures of self-esteem and government/army support. As expected, reminding participants of their possible death during the ongoing conflict exacerbated self-esteem, as well as support for the actions of the government and its army, compared to a control condition. Given that mortality is chronically salient in the context of a civil war, these effects can lead to conflict intensification by increasing not only each side's support for their leaders, but also the value that members of confronted sides attribute to themselves. The findings are discussed in terms of the role of mortality salience in conflict escalation and the importance of carefully dealing with the past in post-conflict societies.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Peace Research Institute Oslo in its journal Journal of Peace Research.

    Volume (Year): 48 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 (March)
    Pages: 225-234

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:48:y:2011:i:2:p:225-234

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    Web page: http://www.prio.no/

    Related research

    Keywords: governmental and army support; mortality salience; self-esteem; terror management; war;

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