When Animals Attack: The Effects of Mortality Salience, Infrahumanization of Violence, and Authoritarianism on Support for War

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 46, pp. 200-203, 2010

4 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011

See all articles by Matt Motyl

Matt Motyl

University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Chicago

Joshua Hart

Union College

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Date Written: July 21, 2009

Abstract

Terror management theory (TMT) suggests that people are motivated to elevate themselves above other animals as a way of denying their creatureliness and mortality. Based on this reasoning, the present study assessed whether infrahumanizing violence by emphasizing its similarities to animal aggression would lead to reduced support for war, especially when mortality is salient. This hypothesis was supported among participants high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), who are especially prone to infrahumanize outgroup members and are generally more supportive of military action against outgroups. RWA was associated with greater support for war against Iran, except when primed with thoughts of death and violence as an infrahuman behavior. These data suggest that by portraying violence as something instinctual and creaturely, it may be possible to reduce intergroup hostility and aggression among individuals who tend to be more dispositionally aggressive, particularly in the context of the death awareness that often exacerbates intergroup conflict.

Keywords: infrahumanization, terror management, war, conflict, group relations, authoritarianism

Suggested Citation

Motyl, Matt and Hart, Joshua and Pyszczynski, Tom, When Animals Attack: The Effects of Mortality Salience, Infrahumanization of Violence, and Authoritarianism on Support for War (July 21, 2009). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 46, pp. 200-203, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1763504

Matt Motyl (Contact Author)

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

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1102 Behavioral Science Building (BSB)
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
United States

HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu

Joshua Hart

Union College ( email )

Schenectady, NY 12308-3151
United States

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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