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Disdain for anxious individuals as a function of mortality salience

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Abstract

Terror management theory research has shown that reminders of mortality tend to decrease liking for people who threaten one's worldview. In research, these worldview threats typically come from outgroup members, but they may also come from ingroup members who are negatively characterized. Presumably the negative characteristics of ingroup members threaten to diminish or undermine the worldview by their association with it. In this research we examine anxious individuals as potentially threatening ingroup members. We hypothesized that a brief contemplation of mortality would lead people to decrease their liking for anxious individuals associated with their ingroup. Study 1 showed that a mortality reminder led people to react more negatively to an anxious police liaison from their community, but not to a calm police liaison. Study 2 showed that a mortality reminder led people who strongly identified with university students to react more negatively to a fellow university student who was anxious, but not to a student who did not display anxiety. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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