‘Heroes aren’t always so great!’–Heroic perceptions under mortality salience

Simon Schindler, Stefan Pfattheicher, Marc André Reinhard, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


According to terror management theory, in a first study (N = 80), we tested the hypothesis that heroic perceptions of historic heroes would become more positive under mortality salience. Results, however, showed the opposite effect–heroic perceptions were less positive. To explain this unexpected finding, we referred to a social comparison perspective, assuming comparisons with a hero are likely to be unfavorable for one’s self-esteem. Two further (pre-registered) studies were conducted to test this idea. Mortality salience effects in Study 2 (N = 615) were not significant. However, using an improved experimental procedure in Study 3 (N = 600), heroic perceptions were indeed significantly less positive under MS, especially for participants with low trait self-esteem and low social comparison orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-91
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Influence
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Heroic perceptions
  • mortality salience
  • self-esteem
  • social comparison
  • terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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