Structured Terror: Further Exploring the Effects of Mortality Salience and Personal Need for Structure on Worldview Defense


concerning this article should be addressed to Jacob Juhl, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Previous research indicates that people respond to heightened death-related cognition with increased defense of predominant cultural beliefs (cultural worldview defense). However, recent research indicates that individual differences in personal need for structure (PNS) impact responses to threatening thoughts of death such that those high, but not low, in PNS respond to death thoughts by seeking a highly structured, clear, and coherent view of the world. Research has yet to fully consider the extent to which PNS affects the cultural worldview defenses typically exhibited after death is rendered salient. The current 3 studies examine the potential for PNS to determine the extent to which people respond to mortality salience with increased worldview defense. In all three studies PNS was measured and mortality salience induced. Subsequently, university-related (Study 1) or religious (Studies 2 and 3) worldview defense was assessed. Only individuals high in PNS responded to mortality salience with increased worldview defense.