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Terror Management Theory

  1. Molly Maxfield,
  2. Tom Pyszczynski

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0981

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Maxfield, M. and Pyszczynski, T. 2010. Terror Management Theory. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Terror management theory (TMT) is a social psychological theory of attitudinal and behavioral responses to humans' awareness of their mortality (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). The theory posits that possessing an awareness of one's own inescapable death creates a uniquely human psychological problem, consequently impacting myriad attitudes and behaviors. Although there are many potential causes of anxiety in the world, the theory suggests that this existential concern differs from other anxiety-provoking events or thoughts in that it is absolutely certain to occur and ultimately entails the end to all other human motives. This makes the management of death-related psychological terror an especially important task for maintaining psychological equanimity.


  • cultural worldview;
  • mortality salience;
  • self-esteem;
  • terror management theory