Terror management theory (TMT) posits that a psychological conflict (“terror”) is created when human beings are reminded of their own mortality, i.e., mortality is salient, and that this anxiety about death is reduced by increased self-esteem or an enhancement of one’s worldview. This experimental study examines whether the impact of mortality salience on self-esteem is moderated by individual differences in narcissism. There are two subtypes of narcissism, namely grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism, which mark the two poles on the continuum describing narcissistic features. Grandiose narcissism is associated with higher self-esteem, whereas vulnerable narcissism is associated with lower self-esteem. Consequently, it is hypothesized that vulnerable narcissism will be a significant predictor of increases in self-esteem in the mortality salience condition, while grandiose narcissism will not. Three hundred participants will be recruited and asked to complete an online survey. Participants will be asked to respond to a series of survey items on self-esteem and the two subtypes of narcissism. They will be randomly assigned to 2 conditions – mortality salience and neutral salience respectively. After a 10-minutes delay task, they will receive two manipulation check measures, and will be asked to fill in an identical self-esteem measure afterwards. At the end, participants will provide some demographic information and will be debriefed. The results of this study will enhance our understanding of TMT by investigating the impact of individual differences in personality on responses to mortality salience. Furthermore, TMT has been previously applied to change health-related behaviors, e.g., smoking cessation. This study contributes to our understanding of how individual characteristics influence our response to such TMT-based interventions.

Additional Abstract Information

Student(s): Rianna H. Yung

Department: Psychology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Claire W. Lyons

Type: Oral

Year: 2016

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