Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1763549
 
 

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Dying to Live: Terrorism, War, and Defending One's Way of Life


Kenneth Vail III


University of Missouri at Columbia

Matt Motyl


University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Chicago

Abdolhossein Abdollahi


University of Limerick

Tom Pyszczynski


University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

February 18, 2011

INTERDISCIPLINARY ANALYSES OF TERRORISM AND POLITICAL AGGRESSION, pp. 49-70, D. Antonius, A. D. Brown, T. K. Walters, J. M. Ramirez, S. J. Sinclair, eds., Cambridge, 2010

Abstract:     
The present chapter reviews research concerning the existential motivations for terrorism and militarism based on Terror Management Theory (TMT). Whereas terrorism and militarism entail methods of extreme violence, TMT entails a set of psychological processes that help protect the self from the aversive awareness of mortality. TMT proposes that humans develop and maintain cultural worldviews and hold strong ties to their social groups because these constructs help individuals psychologically transcend death by providing a link to something larger and longer lasting than the self. Thus, in some cases, this existential fear may intensify identification with radical causes (e.g., ethnic, nationalist, or religious) in an attempt to achieve such a sense of symbolic immortality. Further, challenges to the efficacy of one's worldview or the esteem of one's social group undermine these death-denying qualities, resulting in a sense of humiliation or perceived injustice that may be attenuated by violent attempts at regaining agency, esteem, and dignity. This chapter describes both laboratory research and real-world examples of TMT processes that factor into increases in risk-taking, support for both religious and secular terrorist activity and militarism, and willingness to selfsacrifice to protect one's way of life.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: terror management, extremism, violence, war, terrorism, peace, ideology, threat, group conflict, politics

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Date posted: February 20, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Vail, Kenneth and Motyl, Matt and Abdollahi, Abdolhossein and Pyszczynski, Tom, Dying to Live: Terrorism, War, and Defending One's Way of Life (February 18, 2011). INTERDISCIPLINARY ANALYSES OF TERRORISM AND POLITICAL AGGRESSION, pp. 49-70, D. Antonius, A. D. Brown, T. K. Walters, J. M. Ramirez, S. J. Sinclair, eds., Cambridge, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1763549

Contact Information

Kenneth Vail III
University of Missouri at Columbia ( email )
MO
United States
Matt Motyl (Contact Author)
University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )
1007 W. Harrison
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
United States
HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu
University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )
1007 W. Harrison St. (m/c 285)
Psychology Department
Chicago, IL 60607
United States
HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu
Abdolhossein Abdollahi
University of Limerick ( email )
Castletroy, Co
Limerick
Ireland
Tom Pyszczynski
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs ( email )
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States
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