I should note that my description of terror management theory is grossly over-simplified (in spite of this post’s probably excessive length). I focused only on those aspects of the theory and research that seemed most relevant to my political concerns, and left out many other aspects of the theory and the research to date.
Terror management theory is in fact a very rich and complex theory that attempts to explain human behaviors and emotional responses in a wide variety of settings, not merely their responses to terrorism or in a political arena. Much of the research, for instance, focuses on the interaction between mortality salience and reactions to the “other” – that is, people who are in some fundamental way different from the individual being studied. These aspects of the theory are also very important on a social and political level, and I hope to spend some time on other aspects of the research in later posts. Terror management theory also concerns itself with the effects of factors like self-esteem, stereotypes, and competing worldviews in a variety of situations. I hope to write about some of these factors in later posts, because they are relevant both to understanding the overall theory and some of its political implications. I opted not to include these factors in my original post because, let’s face it, it was more than long enough given the material I did include.
In the mean time, if you want to learn more about the theory, I do recommend checking out both the book I mentioned (see the reference table at the end of this post) or some of the articles I cited in the post. The Wikipedia entry on terror management theory is quite short but has some of the basics and, unlike many of the academic journals I cited, is readily available to anyone with an internet connection. You can also try running the term “terror management” and/or any of the author names I mention (if only for the fun of typing Pyszczynski) in a search engine like Google for additional information on the subject, though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of information found that way.
And furthermore, I think that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.