Entries in terror management theory (3)


“Stay Close to Me” – Attachment, Terror Management, and Symbolic Immortality in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I recently watched the last film in the Harry Potter series on DVD (after seeing it twice in theaters last year; yes I’m a huge fan), and I was reminded of a powerful moment near the end of the story that highlights the connection between close relationships and the metaphysical world (e.g., life/death, spirituality).

(Fair warning before reading further: there are plot spoilers below).

Towards the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry realized that he must die in order to conquer Voldemort once and for all (it was necessary for Harry to die because his body contained a piece of Voldemort’s soul, which must be destroyed). At that moment, Harry experienced an awareness of his own looming death, or what social psychologists refer to as “mortality salience.”

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Death, Derogation, and Double Standards: What’s a Sexy Woman to Do?

You do not need to look hard for evidence that North Americans are uncomfortable with female sexuality. Women, for example, are derogated for engaging in less common sexual behaviors, like threesomes. Male sexuality, alternatively, is often viewed positively or—at worst—ambivalently. This ‘sexual double standard’, when society evaluates women negatively than men for comparable sexual behaviors, is an extensively researched phenomenon.

Perplexingly, some of the research on the double standard has indicated that men are the most likely to endorse it. Why would a man derogate a sexual woman, when it would seem to be more in his interest to encourage female promiscuity? Research conducted by Dr. Mark Landau and colleagues provides an interesting explanation for this phenomenon. According to these researchers, men degrade sexual women because these women make them feel lusty, and thereby remind men of their ‘natural creaturely origins’. If this argument seems far-fetched, bear with me. Let me explain...

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Committed to You

Last week, as the supposed Rapture was looming, how were things going in your relationship? Did the impending end of the world and your earthly demise change how you were thinking about your partner? You might be surprised to learn that this is something that scholars have studied quite a bit, working from the general perspective of "terror management theory."

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