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An Appreciative View of the Brighter Side of Terror Management Processes


  • Kenneth E. Vail, III

    () (Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Ave. CB103, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA)

  • Jacob Juhl

    () (School of Psychology, University of Southampton, University Rd, Southampton SO17-1BJ, UK)


Physical death is an inevitable part of life. From the perspective of terror management theory (TMT), people’s efforts to manage the awareness of death can sometimes have harmful social consequences. However, those negative consequences are merely one side of the existential coin. In considering the other side of the coin, the present article highlights the more beneficial trajectories of the terror management process. For example, the awareness of mortality can motivate people to prioritize their physical health; uphold prosocial values; build loving relationships and peaceful, charitable communities; and foster open-mindedness. Further, the article explores the possible balance between defense and growth motivations, including the motivations toward integrative self-expansion, creativity, and well-being. And finally, we tentatively consider the potential positive impacts of direct confrontations with mortality on terror management processes. In sum, the present analysis suggests that although death awareness can sometimes produce some harmful outcomes, at least under certain conditions it can also motivate attitudes and behaviors that have positive personal and social consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth E. Vail, III & Jacob Juhl, 2015. "An Appreciative View of the Brighter Side of Terror Management Processes," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 1-26, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:4:y:2015:i:4:p:1020-1045:d:58119

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    More about this item


    terror management theory; mortality salience; defense; positive psychology; growth; motivation;

    JEL classification:

    • A - General Economics and Teaching
    • B - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology
    • N - Economic History
    • P - Economic Systems
    • Y80 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Related Disciplines - - - Related Disciplines
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General


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