Terror Management and Meaning: Evidence That the Opportunity to Defend the Worldview in Response to Mortality Salience Increases the Meaningfulness of Life in the Mildly Depressed

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Abstract

Previous terror management research has demonstrated that mildly depressed participants show a greater increase in worldview defense in response to reminders of their mortality than do nondepressed participants. Because the cultural worldview is posited to provide a meaningful conception of life, we hypothesized that mildly depressed participants who defend their worldview in response to mortality salience (MS) would increase their perception that the world is meaningful. A preliminary study first examined the Kunzendorf No Meaning Scale as a measure to assess perceptions of meaning. In the primary study, mildly depressed and nondepressed participants contemplated their own mortality or a neutral topic, evaluated two targets in a manner that either allowed them to defend their worldview or that did not, and then completed the Kunzendorf No Meaning Scale. As predicted, mildly depressed participants who had the opportunity to defend their worldview in response to mortality salience reported greater meaning in life than did mildly depressed participants who did not have the opportunity to defend their worldview, or mildly depressed participants not exposed to mortality salience. Implications for understanding and treating depression are briefly discussed.

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