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Abstract

Terror management theory is a social psychological theory that draws from existential, psychodynamic, and evolutionary perspectives to understand the often potent influence that deeply rooted concerns about mortality can have on our sense of self and social behavior. The present article presents a brief introduction to the theory, comments on critiques and alternative explanations, and highlights where the theory came from, where it has been, and a few places that it might be going. Research is reviewed that uses this analysis to understand conscious and unconscious processes of psychological defense, the role of relationships and basic structuring of reality for managing existential distress, the integration of these ideas with motives for creativity and psychological growth, as well as a number of applied directions that help to make sense of pressing social problems.