Monday, December 24, 2007

Terror Management Theory.

Source: "Reminders of Mortality Bring Out the Charitable Side" by Shankar Vedantam, The Washington Post, December 24, 2007.

I quote:
The theory suggests that when people face explicit dangers, they usually respond rationally -- they get out of the path of a hurtling car, for example. But when terrors are on the fringes of awareness, as was the case with the Colorado pedestrians and the funeral home, people respond with defenses that are primarily psychological. One of these psychological defenses is to seek connections to things larger than ourselves -- to values and ties that will outlive our physical existence.

"Reminders of mortality bolster our sense that we are valuable parts of a meaningful world, and one way we do that is by being good people and helpful, by doing charitable things," Greenberg said. "This is why rich people who get rich by pretty ruthless methods often become philanthropists later in life. We want to feel like we are moral and spiritual beings who can transcend just being mortal creatures -- and feeling moral sustains that feeling."
Comment: It has long been understood that you can influence the way a person answers a question by the things you say to a person before asking the question. The psychological "set" that is created affects the response. The Terror Management Theory, in which people asked questions where they could see a funeral home answered differently than people a few blocks away without that stimulus, seems to be an other example of the same psychological phenomenon. but one in which the cue need not be verbal or even consciously noted by the person interviewed.

Again, as I have posted in the past, answers to questions are simply answers to questions, to be taken as data in trying to find out what a person thinks.

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