ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (3): 492-504.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00492

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Controversies in terror management theory research and its implications for research on the psychology of death

MENG Xianghan1, LI Qiang1,2, ZHOU Yanbang1, WANG Jin3   

  1. 1Department of Social Psychology, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350, China;
    2Binhai College, Nankai University, Tianjin 300270, China;
    3Tianjin University of Technology and Education, Tianjin 300222, China
  • Received:2020-02-29 Online:2021-03-15 Published:2021-01-27

Abstract: Psychology of death remains a complex psychological state of cognition, emotion and behavioral intention in the face of death and death-related events. Currently, the most comprehensive and scientific death psychology research is the Terror Management Theory (TMT). However, TMT has the following controversies: (1) In terms of three basic cognitive aspects of death, the theory presents inconsistent research results on whether death is independent of uncertainty, whether death causes fear, and whether individual survival is a central issue for human beings; (2) On the socio-cultural level, the cultural background of the Terror Management Theory was that there was a general denial of death. However, cross-cultural studies demonstrate that other cultures treat death with attitudes such as acceptance and contempt; (3) Finally, there exist a lot of contradictions in the research results of fear management theory. This indicates that there are important regulatory factors which are not involved in the present study. On this basis, the possible research directions of death psychology can be summarized from the aspects of cognition, behavior, and society. In the future, the death psychology can consider the research attitude that attaches equal importance to science and culture, combine the content and process of death psychology, pay attention to the psychological laws of the group in the face of death as well as carry out the intervention research of physical and mental health under the influence of death psychology.

Key words: terror management theory, death psychology, indigenous psychology, cultural background, content-process

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