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
Date Written: July 21, 2009
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
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