The anxiety buffering function of close relationships: mortality salience effects on the readiness to compromise mate selection standards



This research examines the utility of a terror management approach to understanding the motivations and emotional consequences of compromise in mate selection. One hundred and sixty-eight undergraduates completed a self-esteem scale and a scale tapping ideal mate characteristics, and were then assigned either to a mortality salience, physical pain salience, or neutral condition. Half of the participants rated their readiness to compromise ideal mate standards and the remaining half completed a neutral scale. Then, participants completed a scale tapping their emotional state. Mortality salience led participants to significantly compromise their mate requirements. This effect seemed to be most pronounced among high self-esteem participants who also experienced the greatest amount of guilt when compromising under mortality salient conditions. Low self-esteem participants who compromised under mortality salient conditions reacted with higher levels of shame. The results are discussed in terms of the anxiety buffering functions of close relationships. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.