Still an American? Mortality Salience and Treatment of Suspected Terrorists


Matthew B. Kugler, Department of Psychology, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015. E-mail:


In today's post-9/11 world, it is important to consider the psychological factors related to beliefs about the proper treatment of those suspected of terrorist involvement. We report 2 experiments on the impact of mortality salience on people's willingness to deny procedural protections to terror suspects. Reminders of mortality led participants to extend more procedural protections to an American terrorism suspect, but fewer toward a Saudi Arabian. In Study 2, we replicated and extended the results of Study 1 by showing that support of extreme interrogation measures was specific to members of enemy out-groups (e.g., Saudis), as opposed to non-enemy out-groups (e.g., Bulgarians). The results are discussed in terms of terror-management theory.