Journey of the Wounded Healer
"If a way to the better there be, it lies in taking a full look at the worst."    ~Thomas Hardy

the theory

Terror Management Theory (TMT) was proposed in 1986 by social psychologists Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, and Sheldon Solomon. The theory was inspired by the writings of cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker, and was initiated by two relatively simple questions: Why do people have such a great need to feel good about themselves?; and Why do people have so much trouble getting along with those different from themselves?

The basic gist of the theory is that humans are motivated to quell the potential for terror inherent in the human awareness of vulnerability and mortality by investing in cultural belief systems (or worldviews) that imbue life with meaning, and the individuals who subscribe to them with significance (or self-esteem). Since its inception, the theory has generated empirical research into not just the nature of self-esteem motivation and prejudice, but also a host of other forms of human social behavior. To date, over 300 studies conducted in over a dozen countries have explored such topics as aggression, stereotyping, needs for structure and meaning, depression and psychopathology (e.g., phobias), political preferences, creativity, sexuality and attraction, romantic and interpersonal attachment, self-awareness, unconscious cognition, martyrdom, religion, group identification, disgust, human-nature relations, physical health, risk taking, and legal judgments. Please see the list of publications for more specific information.

© Alex Grey,1984-1985,
  © 2006 Cathy Cox & Jamie Arndt, University of Missouri-Columbia. Updated:   2/1/08