ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (2): 344-356.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2019.00344

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The relationship of death anxiety defense mechanisms in terror management theory

LU Kexin1, WANG Xu2, LI Hong1()   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University of China, Beijing 100084, China
    2 Center for Student Psychological Development, Tsinghua University of China, Beijing 100084, China
  • Received:2018-03-19 Online:2019-02-15 Published:2018-12-25
  • Contact: LI Hong


According to terror management theory (TMT), individuals assuage the death anxiety that is rooted in their awareness of mortality mainly through three defense mechanisms: worldview, self-esteem and close relationship. Previous studies supported the view that the three defense mechanisms functioned equally when individuals managed death anxiety, which was described as fluid compensation. In this paper, we will discuss the basis and limitations of fluid compensation. Based on related opinions and research, a new viewpoint, priority hypothesis, is proposed to describe the relationship of death anxiety defense mechanisms. We believe that the three defense mechanisms do not function equally when individuals manage death anxiety. Instead, close relationship defense takes priority, then worldview defense, and lastly self-esteem. This priority may be rooted in the developmental sequence and derivative relation of the three defense mechanisms. Further directions will also be discussed.

Key words: terror management theory, death anxiety, defense mechanism, fluid compensation

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