ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (1): 76-85.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2017.00076

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The role of emotion in terror management theory

LU Kexin1; SHEN Kehan2; LI Hong1   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University of China, Beijing 100084, China) (2 Counseling and Psychological Services, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China)
  • Received:2016-02-15 Online:2017-01-15 Published:2017-01-15
  • Contact: LI Hong, E-mail:


Terror management theory (TMT) highlights the impact of death thought on the cognition and behavior of individuals. However, the role of emotion in TMT is controversial. The previous affect-free claim which suggests that mortality salience provokes defense without triggering any real emotion experience has been challenged. Recent studies show that anxiety, fear and disgust can be potential reactions aroused by mortality salience. The timing and paradigm of emotion measurement, as well as the selection of the control group are crucial in emotion detection. This study proposes that emotion plays a vital role in mortality salience effect and should be included in the cognition model of TMT. Further improvement on the cognition model and directions for further research are also discussed.

Key words: terror management theory, emotion, mortality salience, affect-free claim