A function of form: Terror management and structuring the social world

Mark J. Landau, Michael Johns, Jeff Greenberg, Andy Martens, Tom Pyszczynski, Jamie L. Goldenberg, Sheldon Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

233 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-210
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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