This item is only available as the following downloads:
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR i TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR: CAN VIEWING A CARTOON ABOUT DEATH REDUCE DEATH CONCERNS? BY ALISABETH AYARS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Steven Graham Sarasota, Florida May, 2012
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR ii Table of Contents 1. Introduction 1 2. Method 28 3. Results 33 4. Discussion 36 5. References 44 6. Appendix 49
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR iii iii TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR: CAN VIEWING A CARTOON ABOUT DEATH REDUCE DEATH CONCERNS? Alisabeth Ayars New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT Death themed humor is a curious phenomenon because it makes light of an anxiety inducing subject. What motivates the production and enjoyment of death themed humor? This thesis investigated the possibility that death humor can reduce concerns about death. I hypothesized that viewing a death related cartoon would reduce death t hought accessibility (DTA) after a mortality salience (MS) prompt. Forty participants, recruited from a small liberal arts college, participated in the study. Participants were reminded of their own mortality, and then exposed to one of four images. The im ages were a death related cartoon, a non death DTA was assessed. Contrary to the hypothesis, participants who viewed the death related cartoon did not exhibit low er DTA than participants in other conditions. Surprisingly, no participants exposed to MS exhibited elevated DTA. Furthermore, a sample of students who were not exposed to MS exhibited elevated DTA. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed. Steven Graham Division of Social Sciences
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 1 Take a look at this cartoon: Do you like the cartoon? How funny do you thin k it is? Maybe you thought it was witty. Maybe viewing the cartoon lifted your spirits. Now, imagine that prior to viewing the cartoon, you were reflecting on something that many people have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on: death. Perhaps someone close to you recently died. Or perh aps you were contemplating what it would feel like to die, and what (if anything) you would experience after death. Do you think your reaction to the cartoon would be different had you just reflected on death? Would you find the cartoon offensive, less humorous, or more humorous? How would it ma ke you feel? Would viewing the cartoon make you feel better about death, worse about it, or make no difference at all? This thesis will explore the relationship between humorparticularly death-related humorand concerns about death. Although death is often considered an ominous, frightening, or tragic phenomenon, humans often poke fun at death in cartoons, jokes, or other forms of
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 2 humor. Perhaps laughing at death themed humo r helps people to reduc e their worries about death. Indeed, according to Terror Management Theo ry, people have a lot of ways of reducing their death anxiety, and la ughing at death-related humor may be one of them. Terror Management Theory Terror Management Theory (TMT), intrigui ngly and aptly named, is a psychological theory of how humans manage ex istential terror. The theory posits that humans are prone to experience existential anxiety fo r two reasons: 1. Humans possess a survival instinct, just as other animals possess a survival instinct and 2. Hu mans have the intelligence to recognize that someday, their desire to live will be thwarted; that is, they will di e. Ernest Becker, an anthropologist and psychologist from whose wr itings many of the tenets of TMT are derived, wrote of the uniqueness of the dilemma in his Pulitzer Prize winning work The Denial of Death : The knowledge of death is reflective and concep tual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting ones dreams and even the most sun-filled daysthats something else ( 27). Even though humans possess the disturbing knowledge that they will eventually be reduced to food for worms, most people do not go about their daily lives in perpetual terror or dread. According to Terror Manage ment theorists, this is becaus e people are able to buffer their existential anxiety using a variety of methods. On e way that people manage their death anxiety is by suppressing thoughts of death. For example, if a person is reminded of her or his mortality (say, by visiting a graveyard), she or he may attemp t to distract her or hi mself from this thought by thinking of the tasks that she or he needs to accomplish that day. People may also reduce death anxiety by denying their susceptibility to dy ing, say, by declaring their health, or engaging
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 3 in pro-health behaviors) (Arndt Routledge, & Goldenberg, 2006). Sometimes, peoples denial of their susceptibility to death is irrational, or pseudo-rational. For example, people may greatly exaggerate their own health or underestimate the chan ce that they will contract a terminal illness. Both of these techniques for reducing concer ns about death are performed when thoughts of death are in focal attention; i.e., when people are thinking of death. Terror Management theorists have a name for techni ques people use to reduce concerns about death when death is in focal attention: proximal defenses (P yzcyznski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). The use of proximal defenses in response to being reminded of death has been a fruitful area of study in recent years. Schimel, Arndt, and Goldenberg (2006) found that when death was in focal attentioin, participants intentions to engage in pro-health behavior increased. In the study, 45 undergraduates were aske d to either respond to prompts about death (Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you, and Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happ en to you physically as you die and once you are physically dead) or parall el prompts regarding the experi ence of dental pain. Thus, for participants who responded to the death prompts, death was in focal attention. Then, participants read an article professing the health benefits of physical fitness. Finally, they answered a question about their intent to exercise. Participants who res ponded to the prompts about death reported stronger intentio ns to exercise than participants who responded to the prompts about dental pain. In this case, participants reduced their death anxiety by planning to engage in a behavior, physical exercise, that is known to improve health and prolong life (Schimel et al., 2006). However, sometimes thinking about death can decrease peoples intentions to perform health-promoting behaviors. Taubman-Ben-Ari a nd Findler (2005) found that older adults, but
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 4 not young and middle-aged adults, displayed a lower willingness to engage in healthy behaviors when consciously thinking about death. Particip ants fell into three age groups: younger adults (18-35 years of age), middle age adults (36-50 years of age), and older adults (51-65). They completed a packet of questionnai res. Embedded in the questionnair es was either the same deathrelated prompt used by Shimel, Arndt and Goldenbe rg (2006) or a prompt about a neutral topic. After they completed the packet, participants co mpleted a questionnaire designed to assess their proneness to take health precautions in hypotheti cal scenarios (i.e., changing ones diet after being diagnosed with high cholesterol). The ques tionnaire was created by the researchers for the study. Whereas for younger and middle aged adu lts being reminded of death increased willingness to engage in health promoting behavi ors, older adults expressed less willingness to do so after being reminded of death. The authors s uggest that elderly indi viduals are pessimistic about the likelihood that health-promoting beha viors will stave off death, and instead reduce death concerns by intending to en joy life to its fullest (leaving little time for health promoting behaviors, and thereby decreasi ng willingness to engage in them ). Indeed, Arndt and colleagues (2007) found that participants with higher hea lth-optimism, as asse ssed by Aspinwall and Brunharts (1996) measure of health optimism, e xpressed greater intentio ns to perform a prohealth behavior (a self-breast examination) imme diately after they were reminded of death than participants who scored low in health-optimism, suggesting th at health-optimism is a key predictor of how participants will react to remi nders of death in terms of their intentions to engage in healthy behaviors. Mo re research is underway to cl arify factors, both personal and situational, that predict the us e of various proximal defenses in response to death reminders. Certainly, proximal defenses aid people in their quest for freedom from troubling death anxiety. But are proximal defenses enough to stave off death anxiety entirely? One cannot
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 5 suppress death-related thoughts indefinitely. Peop le are frequently confronted with blatant reminders of their own mortality; think of th e many morbid images displayed on the news. Furthermore, people are confronted with the deaths of friends a nd relatives. Even peoples own bodies can act as reminders of mo rtality; after all, it is peoples existence as organic, physical bodies that entails their surrender to the same morb id fate as other organic, physical bodies like rats or monkeys (Becker, 1975). According to Be cker, The anus and its incomprehensible, repulsive product represents not only physical de terminism and boundness, but the fate as well of all that is physical: decay and death (p.31). Aside from defecation, sexual activity can also remind people of their mortal, animal existence, because it is an act committed by animals as well as humans and involves physical pleasure In a study by Goldenberg, Cox, Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and Solomon (2002), people who thought about the physical aspects of sex, as opposed to the romantic aspects, exhibited el evated death thought accessibility (DTA; the accessibility of death-related thoughts to consciousn ess) under certain conditions. In other words, thinking about the physical aspects of death ma de death-related thoughts more likely to come into consciousness. Interestingl y, this effect emerged only among participants who were primed with creatureliness (humans si milarity to animals) prior to thinking about the physical aspects of sex. Participants were primed with creatureliness by reading an essay describing the similarity of humans to animals. Control participants r ead an essay describing the differences between humans and animals. To make either the physical aspects or romantic aspects of sex salient, some participants rated how appealing they woul d find certain physical aspects of sex (feeling my genitals respond sexually) and some par ticipants rated how app ealing they would find certain romantic aspects of sex (feeling close to my partner). To assess the accessibility of death thoughts to consciousness, pa rticipants were asked to comple te 25 word stems with words.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 6 Five of the stems could be completed with a deat h-related word or a non-d eath-related word (for example, COFF_ _ could be completed with c offin or coffee). The number of word stems participants completed with death words was th eir DTA score. (More will be said of death thought accessibility later in this literature review). The DTA of participants who were primed with the idea that humans and animals are diffe rent did not increase after rating the physical aspects or the romantic aspects of sex, presum ably because these participants did not take physical enjoyment of sex to be evidence of a mortal, animal existence. However, for participants who read the essa y asserting that humans and an imals are similar, death thought accessibility increased after rating the physical asp ects of sex, but not the romantic aspects of sex. Thus, thinking of sex can ind eed make people more likely to think of death, but only when they think about the physical aspe cts of sex and are primed to s ee the similarity between humans and animals. Under these conditions, sex is a wo eful reminder that we are trapped in mortal animal bodies. Indeed, even thinking about sex can make thoughts of death more likely to enter consciousness, under certain condit ions. One cannot suppress death thoughts indefinitely nor can one convince her or himself that she or he is immortal. Pr oximal defenses fall short. Cultural Worldviews What is an intensely death-fearing animal to do if it is unable to deny the fact of death entirely, or repress it completely from its consci ousness? One of Ernest B eckers most celebrated accomplishments was to identify exactly what it is that people do to stave off death anxiety, other than actively denying it and repressing it. According to Becker, people mitigate death anxiety by participating in culture (Becker, 1975)
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 7 The manner by which participation in culture mitigates death anxiety is multi-faceted. For one, cultures offer systems of meaning that allow individuals within the culture to feel important, and thereby transcend their animal, mortal existence. The meaning systems that culture offers are labeled cultural worldviews by TMT theorists. An example of a cultural worldview is the view that the most noble profes sion is that of a professor (or a novelist, or movie star, or whatever). Although cultural worldvi ews can be idiosyncratic, they are shared by at least a subset of society. By adopting cult ural worldviews, people gain access to meaning systems that attach value to various actions or roles, and devalue other actions or roles. By achieving value according to the standards of th e worldview, people gain a sense of importance or greatness, or even heroism. If death is threatening because it reduces one to a disgusting, defecating animal, achieving greatne ss within a system of cultural meaning is the perfect antidote to death anxiety. According to Becker, It does nt matter whether the cultural hero-system is frankly magical, religious, and prim itive or secular, scientific, and civilized. It is still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn a feeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to cr eation, of unshakable meaning (p. 5). Culture also provides people w ith opportunities to attach themselves to projects that transcend their individual lives. For example, if a culture va lues environmentalism, members of the culture can participate in the environmen talist movement and ther eby gain a sense of immortality via their identification with a transcendent movement. Furthermore, culture also acts as a venue in which people can preserve extensions of themselves. For example, a novelist may gain a se nse of symbolic immortal ity if she has created a work of art that will be admired even after sh e has died. This kind of immortality is known to TMT theorists as s ymbolic immortality Becker speaks of the human desire to preserve
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 8 extensions of the self: The hope and belief is that the things that man creates in society are of lasting worth and meaning, that they outlive or outshine death and decay, that man and his products count (p.5). Finally, culture may provide individuals with worldviews that deny mortality outright. Many religions profess that there is an afterlife. Belief in an afterlife can greatly reduce anxiety about death. Individuals who s ubscribe to these religious worl dviews believe that they are literally immortal. Greenberg and colleagues formulated the hypot hesis that if people rely on cultureand in particular, cultural worldviews-to reduce de ath anxiety, people should be defensive of these worldviews, especially after being reminded of their eventu al death. Formally put, the mortality salience hypothesis is that if a psychologica l structure functions to buffer awareness of death, inducing people to think of their death should incr ease the need for this psychological structure (Hayes, Schimel, Arndt, & Faucher, 2010, p. 71). Indeed, to date, hundreds of TMT experiments have confirmed that people do defend their cultura l worldviews (such as political and religious views) to a greater-than-average degree a short time after being asked to respond to a prompt about death. In the typical TMT experiment, participants are first given a packet of questionnaires that purportedly assess personal ity. For participants ra ndomly assigned to the mortality salience (MS) condition, a MS prompt is included among the questionnaires. The MS prompt usually consists of prompts such as Take a moment to think about your own eventual death. Please briefly describe the emo tions that the thought of your own death arouses in you and serve to remind participants of th eir own mortality. Participants randomly assigned to the control condition are often asked to think about the experien ce of dental pain or another aversive experience. After a delay in which participants usually fill out the Positive and Negative
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 9 Affect ScaleExtended Version (PANAS-X; Wats on & Clark, 1994), they are provided with two essays purportedly written by fellow students. Th e study attacks an elemen t of the participants worldview. For example, if th e participants are American, the essay may espouse an antiAmerican worldview. Participants are then asked questions about the essay, such as, How much did you like the essay? and To wh at extent were the authors arguments valid? Participants exposed to MS rate the worldview threatening essays and their authors less favorably than do control participants, since MS participants are in a state of worldview defensiveness. TMT theorists have also discovered that people respond more favorably to in-group members (members of their own culture or pe ople who espouse similar worldviews) and less favorably to out-group members shortly after be ing reminded of death. In a seminal TMT study conducted by Greenberg and colleagues in 1990, 26 Christian undergraduates were either asked to write about what would happen to them as th ey physically die or we re not asked to do so. Then, the participants read a questionnaire purpor tedly filled out by either a Jewish or Christian undergraduate, and then were aske d to evaluate the student (i.e., provide their first impression of the student). Participants who we re reminded of death rated the Ch ristian student more favorably than did participants who werent reminded of de ath, and rated the Jewish student less favorably than did participants who werent reminded of death (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, Solomon, Rosenblatt, Veeder, Kirkland, & Lyon, 1990). Af ter being reminded of death, people are attracted to in-group members (such as those of the same religion) because these individuals share their worldview, and theref ore facilitate the perception th at the worldview is objectively correct (Greenberg et al., 1990). After all, its difficult to maintain faith in cultural worldviews unless other people also endorse the worldview. Death Thought Accessibility
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 10 Bolstering ones cultural worl dview and favoring in-group me mbers are distal defenses against concerns about death. Distal defenses is the name given by TM T theorists to symbolic, non-threat-focused techniques th at people perform (unconsciously ) to reduce concerns about death when death is not in focal attention. People do not defend their worldviews immediately after being reminded about death; instead, worl dview defensiveness occurs a short time after participants have finished actively suppressing death though ts from consciousness. TMT theorists assert that immediatel y after being reminded of death, people use the proximal defense of thought suppression to avoid thinking of death. However, af ter suppression has ceased, deaththoughts linger, figuratively, just below the surface of consciousness, producing worldview defensiveness. What is meant by just below the surface of consciousness? Essentially, this phrase means something like highly accessible to c onsciousness, or in other words, easily brought back into focal attention. Wegner (1994) theorized that active efforts to remove thoughts from consciousness (for example, actively trying to banish death thoughts from consciousness) increase the likelihood that the t houghts will return after they ar e removed from focal attention. According to his theory of ironi c processes of mental control, when people attempt to control a mental state, two mental cont rol systems emerge: a conscious operating process that seeks the mental contents that will achie ve the desired state, and in ironic monitoring process that searches for mental contents that indicate a failure to achieve the goal state. The operating process is effortful, while the ironic mon itoring process is, unfortunately, effortless and automatic. When an individual does not have the cognitive resources to mainta in dominance of the operating process, the ironic monitoring proc ess takes hold and, via its consta nt identification of failures to
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 11 achieve the desired mental state, invites to consciousness thought s associated with the undesired mental state (Wegner, 1994). The capacity of active thought suppression to ironically induce preoccupation with the suppressed thought was demonstrated in Wegne rs well-known White Bear study (1987). Wegner either assigned participants to think about a white bear for 5 minutes and then suppress thoughts of a white bear for 5 minutes, or suppr ess thoughts of a white bear for 5 minutes and then think about a white bear fo r 5 minutes. They were asked to think out loud (their stream-ofconsciousness thoughts were recorded), and ring a bell whenever a white bear came to mind. Participants failed to entirely suppress thoughts of the white bear during suppression periods, ringing the bell numerous times. This suggests that attempted suppression of white bear thoughts in fact elevated the o ccurrence of white-bear thoughts above baseline. Furthermore, participants asked to think about a white bear subsequent to suppressing thoughts of a white bear expressed more tokens of thought about white bears duri ng the expression period (the time during which they were asked to think about a white bear) than did participants who were asked to think about a white bear from the outset, indicating that supp ressing thoughts about a part icular item leads to hyperactivity of thoughts regarding the suppressed item (Wegner, 1994). According to Wegner, the ironic monitori ng system that is responsible for the hyperactivity of suppressed thoughts is auto matic and unconscious. Certainly, conscious monitoring systems may also take hold during su ppression periods. That is, a person asked to suppress thoughts about a white bear may consci ously monitor whether or not she or he is thinking of a white bear, inevitably leading to undesired thoughts of a wh ite bear (since actively monitoring ones mental states for thoughts of a white bear requires that wh ite bear is held in consciousness) (Wegner, 1994). Unconscious monitoring systems sabotage suppression by
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 12 activating unconscious represen tations of suppressed thought items in order to signal the presence of a failure to achieve the desired ment al state, thereby increasing the chance that the suppressed thought items will in fact become conscious. According to TMT theorists, when people ar e reminded of their ev entual death, they actively suppress thoughts about death (a proximal defense). In alignment with Wagners theory, the ironic monitoring system activated by the suppression elevates the accessibility to consciousness of death thoughts ab ove baseline (Greenberg, 1994). Terror Management Theorists have developed measures to assess the accessibility of death thoughts to consciousness, known as D eath-Thought Accessibility (DTA) (e.g., Greenberg, 1994). Although a few DTA measures exist, the mo st common is a word stem completion task, in which participants are aske d to complete word fragments such as dea_ (Greenberg, 1994). Some of the word fragments can be completed with either a death-related word (i.e., dead) or a non-death-related word (i.e., dear ). The reasoning behind the DT A measure is that if deaththoughts are hyperaccessible to participants, th ey will complete more ambiguous word stems with death-related words than usual. Again, elevated DTA emerges after a short de lay following mortality salience; that is, after participants have had the opportunity to actively suppress d eath thoughts in response to MS. In TMT experiments, participants usually co mplete Watson and Clarks (1994) Positive and Negative Affect Scale-Extended Version (PANAS-X ) to assess mood as well as to provide a delay between the MS prompts and measures of DTA and worldview defensiveness. It is important to note that DTA is not elevated imme diately after MS, indica ting that participants have initial success at suppressi ng death-related thoughts. Arndt and colleagues confirmed that participants non-elevated DTA immediately af ter MS is explained by their successful
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 13 suppression of death thoughts (Arndt, Greenbe rg, Solomon, Pyzczynski, & Solomon, 1997). In the experiment, some participants induced with MS were given a cognitive load task immediately after the MS manipulation. Specificall y, the participants were asked to hold an 11digit number in memory. The cognitive load usurpe d participants cognitive resources available for suppressing death thoughts, leading to im mediately elevated DTA (Arndt, Greenberg, Solomon, Pyszczysnki, & Simon, 1994). Particip ants not experiencing cognitive load only demonstrated elevated DTA after the standard delay. Although this experiment demonstrated that participants DTA is low immediately after MS because they engage in active (and successful ) suppression of death thoughts, the results of the study also raise questions. For example, if elevated DTA is dependent on a period of active suppression of death thoughts (as TMT theorist s seem to suggest), why did participants experience elevated DTA even when they we re prevented from actively suppressing death thoughts? Perhaps the mechanism by which DTA is immediately elevated after MS is distinct; for example, perhaps participants with high c ognitive load experienced elevated DTA after MS simply because death thoughts were conscious. Ho wever, it is unclear whether or not death thoughts were conscious to participants immediat ely after MS in the experiment, considering they were focused on remembering the eleven-d igit number. Perhaps active suppression is not necessary for elevated DTA, but intent or desire to suppress is (presumably, participants burdened with cognitive load still intended to suppress death thoughts, even though they were unable to do so). More will be said regarding alternative mechanisms later in this section. Interestingly, in TMT experiments in which participants are given the opportunity to defend their worldviews after an MS induction, DTA returns to base line once participants have defended their worldviews. In a study by Arndt et al. (1997), MS induced participants were
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 14 asked to either evaluate pro-American and an ti-American essays (and had the opportunity to defend their worldviews), or simply asked to respond to mundane questio ns about the essays. Only MS induced participants who answered the mundane questions about the essays experienced elevated DTA at the end of the experiment, indicating that bolstering ones worldview allows DTA to return to baseline after MS. One explanation for participants reduced DTA following worldview bolstering is that participants engage in renewed death t hought suppression during or following worldview defense. Recall that DTA is baseline immedi ately following MS because participants successfully suppress death though ts immediately following MS; it is possible that successful suppression of death thoughts also follow wo rldview bolstering, leading to reduced DTA (although it is unclear why worldview bolsterin g would induce renewed suppression of death thoughts). However, an experiment by Greenberg et al. (1997) demonstrated that participants do not in fact re-suppress death t houghts after defending their wo rldview. In the experiment, 36 participants were assigned to th ink about either death or dental pain, and then (after a delay) were asked to either evaluate pro-American and anti-American essays (and thus were given the opportunity to defend their worldv iew) or asked to answer munda ne questions about the essays, as in Arndts and colleagues (1997) experiment However, some participants were burdened with cognitive load while read ing the essays and answering the questions about them. The cognitive load consisted of having to hold an el even digit number in mind. If participants normally engage in renewed suppression of deat h thoughts, then MS-induced participants who were burdened with cognitive load, and therefore depleted of resources needed to engage in successful suppression of death thoughts, should experience elevated DTA at the end of the experiment, even if they were given the opportunity to defend their worldviews. However, MS-
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 15 induced participants burdened with cognitive load displayed the same reduction in DTA following worldview defensiveness as did MS-indu ced participants who we re not burdened with cognitive load, indicating that worldview defensiveness indeed likely reduces DTA by eliminating the activation of unconscious death thoughts, rather than inducing renewed death thought suppression (Greenberg et al., 1997). Having dispelled the renewed-suppression hypothesis, Greenberg, Arndt, Schimel, Pyszczynski, and Solomon (1999) hypothesized th at worldview defensiveness reduces DTA by mitigating the activation of unconscious death-re lated thoughts and allowing them to dissipate, although the mechanism by which this occurs is no t entirely clear. If unconscious death thought activation is caused by the s uppression of death thoughts (i .e., by the mechanism Wegner describes), it would follow that activities that reduce DTA do so by eliminating the need for suppression of death thoughts. Perhaps when i ndividuals engage in wo rldview bolstering and thereby renew their faith in an immortality-conferring co nstruct, they no longer perceive death as anxiety-provoking (or at least, they perceive death to be le ss anxiety-provoking), and thus no longer desire to suppress death thoughts (since the only reason for suppression in the first place is to prevent the experience of anxiety). This would render unconscious d eath thoughts irrelevant regarding the calculati on of the success of the suppressi on operation (since no suppression operation is underway), making death thoughts non-targets for activation. However, in conflict with this explanation is the postulate that MS -induced participants only actively suppress death thoughts immediately after MS. Thus, none of the participants in TMT experiments are continuing to actively s uppress death thoughts during the part of the experiments in which they are asked to defend thei r worldviews or complete a control task. Since no participants are actively suppressing death th oughts during this period worldview bolstering
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 16 cannot be said to decrease DTA via the fac ilitation of the cessati on of suppression, as suppression had already ceased earlier in the experi ments. A way to avert this criticism is to assert that although participants only actively suppress death thoughts immediately after MS, the mind still recognizes the need for the avoidan ce of death thoughts long after suppression has occurred, and thus death thoughts are continuously but unconsciously suppressed until the occurrence of worldview bolstering. Terror Management theorists seem to allude to such an explanation. Greenberg et al. (1999) assert, worldview defense may attenuate a fear of mortality by bolstering defense against death-related concerns, thereby reducing not onl y the need to defend against frightening thoughts, but also the accessibility of death c oncerns (p. 74). Apparently, according to TMT theorists, it is the minds mitigated defense agains t death cognitions that allow them to dissipate from consciousness. I have an alternative explanation for the elev ated DTA that occurs after a dela y after MS that perhaps better accounts for th e capacity of worldview defensiv eness to prevent or eliminate this elevation. It seems that when a crisis si tuation, such as death, is introduced into an organisms consciousness, the organism can reduce anxiety about the crisis by either solving the crisis or suppressing thoughts of the crisis from consciousness. Prima facie processing and solving the crisis is more adaptive than suppres sing the crisis from consciousness. Therefore, evolution would have selected for animals that have a difficult time suppressing crises. For these animals, unconscious thoughts regarding a crisis remain highly active even when the organism has suppressed thoughts of the crisis, making it more likely that thoughts of the crisis will return to consciousness. Unconscious activation of crisis thoughts only ceases if the organism successfully resolves the crisis. When participan ts in TMT experiments are given the opportunity
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 17 to bolster their worldvie ws, and thus validate an immortalityconferring construct, they resolve (at least in part) the crisis of death. Thus, unconscious death thoughts are deactivated. According to this reasoning, suppressing or defending agai nst death thoughts is not a necessary condition for their unconscious activation; all that is necessary is that death, when introduced to consciousness, be perceived as a crisis (a frightening, unresolved problem). Although many possible explanations exist for th e increase in DTA that occurs after MS and the capacity of worldview bol stering to reduce DTA, the expl anations share one postulate: that activities that reduce DTA ultimately do so by making death less scary (i.e., they are terror management defenses). If this is tr ue, the performance of any activity (such as worldview bolstering) that makes death seem more benign should prevent the increase in DTA that follows mortality salience, or eliminate it once it has occurred. Indeed, many variables have been identified that moderate the effects of MS on DTA. For example, thinking of a close relationship prior to an MS induction prevents DTA from increasing after MS (Mikulincer & Florian, 2000). Even increasing peoples fait h in cultural progress after MS reduces DTA (Rutjens & ven der Pligt, 2010), perhaps because be lief in cultural progress provides reassurance that life will continue beneficen tly even after one has died. Death and Humor Worldview bolstering, close relationships, a nd belief in progress all likely dissipate unconscious death thoughts because they cause death to be perceived as less threatening. In this thesis, I hypothesize that viewing humor about deat h also mitigates the perception of death as a threat, and thus inactivates unconscious death thoughts. One reason that this hypothesis is worthy of exploration is that many scholars have suspected a relationship between humor (in some cases, death hu mor in particular) and death
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 18 anxiety, but few have assessed a relationship ex perimentally. Experimental evidence for or against these theories would be of much valu e in assessing the soundne ss of the theories. So, what potentially falsifiabl e theories have scholars re garding death and humor have proposed? Thorson (1985) asserted that humor use, specifically th e use of death humor, can be a symbolic offense mechanism against death. In other words, people may laugh at death via their use of death humor (say, by laughing at a de piction of the grim reaper), and thereby rise above it. In Thorsons words, Alth ough we all must die, we have, at least, the ability to laugh at the Grim Reaper. By making our own death unim portant, we make all death less important (p. 206). Elgee (2004) theorized that humor, in all its forms, is generated by the fear of death. According to Elgee, one way that humor use func tions to mitigate death anxiety is by projecting deaths curse onto other people and thereby defl ecting it from the self. For example, a person may point and laugh at someone in order to feel superior to her and garner self-esteem, buffering her from death concerns and incr easing her victims susceptibility to them. The idea that selfesteem can protect an individual against deat h concerns (and low self-esteem can make one susceptible to them) was proposed by Becker (1975) and there is much experimental evidence to support this claim. For example, raising participants implicit se lf-esteem after MS prevents the usual increase in worldview defe nsiveness that occurs after MS (Schmeichel, Gailliot, Filardo, McGregor, & Baumeister, 2009, study 2). Schmeichel and colleagues induced MS or dental pain, then elevated some participants implicit self-est eem. To boost participants implicit self-esteem, the word I was presented subliminally prior to the presentation of pos itive traits such as smart. Participants then evaluated pro-Ameri can and anti-American essays, and the amount of worldview defensiveness displayed in the evalua tions was assessed. Participants whose implicit
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 19 self-esteem was not boosted exhibited the usual increased worldview defensiveness in response to MS, whereas participants who received the implicit self-esteem boost did not. According to Becker and TMT theorists, self-esteem buffe rs death concerns because feeling good about oneself indicates that one is a valued member of a meaningful universe and thus has attained symbolic immortality. Elgee writes that ostracizin g humor is directed at making us feel godlike, of lasting worth, better than and above those Othe rs with a different belief system put them all the way down, link them to the inanimate, to wa ste, to bodily excrement, to the dead, and competitively speaking, you have life and they do not. Your god lives and their god is dead (p. 297). Elgee also discusses how ironic humor, a more affiliative and mature form of humor than ostracizing humor, can be used to poke fun at and even relish our bizarre existential predicament, so that we are not slaves to the anxiety it engenders. Indeed, many theoretical claims have been ma de regarding the rela tionship between death anxiety and humor, and experime ntal evidence for or against these claims would be of much value to assessing their soundness. The present experiment only inve stigates the claim that death humor indeed can dissipate unc onscious death thoughts (which would indicate that death humor is a terror management defens e), but does not explore the reasons why death humor reduces death concerns if this is the case. Clearly, the theories cited not only claim that humor reduces concerns about death but also make claims about why this is the case. However, confirmation that death humor indeed de-activates unconsciou s death thoughts would ope n the door to future experiments that assess why this is so. Another reason why the hypothesis is worthy of investigation is that if humor, particularly death humor, is indeed found to be a terror management defense, humor could be (tastefully) inserted into situations that trigge r existential anxiety. The use of humor by anxiety-
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 20 prone individuals in these situations might preclude their need for more damaging terror management defenses such as worldview defens e, fundamentalism, and degradation of out-group members. Of course, not all humor is benign; os tracizing humor is toxic. However, oftentimes humor is affiliative and even unifying, making it an excellent choice for a terror management defense in anxiety provoking situations. There are a few reasons why viewing death hum or may be a terror management defense. (The analysis will be restricted to the benefits of viewing death-related humor, since this is what participants were asked to do in the present study; however, it should be noted that there is reason to think that viewing and producing death humor may have di fferent terror management capacities). Recall that Thorson proposed that death-humor is an offense against death, because it allows one to laugh at death, ther eby overcoming it. Death is rendere d less important; after all, how magnitudinous could something be if we are ab le to poke fun at it ? Additionally, laughing at cartoons or jokes about death (regardless of whether one is laughing at death or not) may facilitate the impression that deat h is benign or trivial, given the postulate that benign entities or situations are usually the subject of cartoons and jokes, whereas hor rifying and significant realities are not. Indeed, phenomena such as cancer, grief, or se xual abuse are difficult to joke about. When we laugh at death humor we are persuaded that death is not one of these horrifying and significant realities after all; surely it can not be, if it is fa ir game for cartoons and jokes. Another reason that death humor may function as a terror management defense is that death humor, particularly death cartoons, often personifies death. The most common personification of death in Western culture is the Grim Reaper. The personif ication of death is its reduction to a tangible, sometimes even friendl y, form. Although some portrayals of the Grim
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 21 Reaper depict him as a serious and scary-looking being, sometimes he is depicted as friendly looking, or at least harmless (such as in the cartoon I displayed at th e start of this paper). Besides transforming death into a tangibl e symbol, depictions of the Grim Reaper might also be comforting because the Grim Reaper is a well -known cultural symbol for death. According to Terror Management theory, culture is a terror management defense because it provides meaning in an otherwise chaotic and fri ghtening reality. If the Grim Reap er is the cultures symbol for death, viewing the Grim Reaper should conjure up the cultures concept of death, as well as the cultural meanings attached to death. This cultural, familiar idea of death is less foreboding than a raw idea of death unconstrained by cultural meani ng. If the personification of death is indeed a means by which death cartoons deactivate death thoughts, the embedding of the personification in a humorous context (such as a cartoon) should not be necessary for it to function as a terror management defense. The present study will assess not only whether viewing a death cartoon deactivates unconscious death thought s, but also whether a personifi cation of death (a drawing of the Grim Reaper not embedded in a cartoon) does. Finally, viewing humor about death might be comforting because it facilitates the withholding of negative affective response to death. Freud first articulated this idea in his analysis of gallows humor (t he use of death humor by criminals sentenced to death). When prisoners laugh at gallows humor, the affect (s adness or anxiety) that they would normally experience as the result of thinking of death is suspended, freeing them to react to death with laughter and positive affect. Thus, remembering traumas are reduced to occasions for pleasure (Freud, 1928). Perhaps there is something comf orting about the freedom to laugh when thoughts of death arise; after all, if one can laugh at death thoughts that arise, one should no longer fear their arising.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 22 Not only are there theoretical reasons that the hypothesis is plausible, preliminary experimental results suggest that death humor does indeed serve a terror management function. Hackney (2011) found that MS increased participan ts liking for a death-re lated cartoon. In the experiment, 93 participants were asked to either think of what will happen to their bodies when they die or about the experience of watching tele vision. Then, participants completed a task in which they circled the nouns, verbs, and adjectives in a pair of sentences; this task functioned as the delay between MS and the dependent measure. Finally, participants were exposed to one of three comic strips. One of the comic strips wa s death-related, and tw o were non-death-related. The death-related comic strips de picted an executioner offering a prisoner a choice of paper or plastic for the basket in which his head is a bout to fall. One of the non-death-related cartoons depicted an individual in a pillory, with a fr iend nearby who says, Youre right, it was a bad idea to tell people you got a job as a telemarketer . This particular ca rtoon was chosen by the researcher because he hypothesized that since MS inclines people to administer harsher punishments to those who violate cu ltural standards, participants might like the ca rtoon after MS since it depicts someone being punished for occu pying a role that societ y devalues. The other non death-related cartoon, which served as a cont rol, depicted a bird squawking ankh ankh beneath a caption that read Egyptian Goose (thus the cartoo n involved a play on the words honk and ankh). The dependent measure was pa rticipants liking of th e cartoons, which they indicated on a Likert scale. Participants e xposed to MS liked the death-related cartoon more than did participants who were not exposed to death. Th ey also liked the cartoon depicting the pillory punishment to a greater extent th an participants who were not reminded of death, but liked the goose cartoon less. Overall, MS induced particip ants liked the death cartoon best, the pillory
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 23 cartoon second best, and the goose cartoon the least. Participants reminded of television liked the death cartoon and the goose cartoon the most, and the punishment cartoon least. It is likely that MS induced participants liked the pillory cartoon to a greater extent than did participants in the control condition becau se the cartoon depicted an individual being punished for occupying the telemarketer role, a role to which society is averse. However, it is less clear why MS induced participants also li ked the death cartoon (dep icting the prisoner and executioner) to a greater extent than did participants in the control condition. It might be the case that although the prisoners vi olation was not specifi ed, the depiction of an individual being executed was enough to activate part icipants concept of the punishment of a vi olator of cultural standards, and thus their liking of this cartoon increased after MS If this is the case, it would indicate that viewing cartoons depicting punishment serves a terror management function, but viewing death-related cartoons does not necessarily do so. However, it is also possible participants liked the death cartoon to a greater extent after MS due to the cartoon being about death. Of course, even if this was the case, it would not necessarily indicate that they liked the death cartoon because it deactivated unconscious death thoughts. Perhaps people simply like cartoons to a greater extent if they are about a topic that has just been reflected upon, because being primed with a given topic increases appreciation for humor regarding that topic. This possibility was not controlled for in the experiment; it was not assessed whether participants reminded of a diff erent topic, such as television, liked cartoons about that topic to a greater extent. However, although no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the experiment, the results of the experi ment do align with the hypothesis that viewing death humor can deactivate uncons cious death thoughts (presuming th at participants liking of stimuli after MS correlates w ith their capacity to de-activ ate unconscious death thoughts).
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 24 Mager and Cabe (1990) found that people with high death anxiety di slike death-related humor (and other themed humor) to a greater ex tent than people low in death-anxiety. Participants first completed the Templer Deat h Anxiety Scale (Templar, 1970), in which they rated their agreement with statements such as I am very much afraid to die and The sight of a dead body is horrifying to me. Then, they were divided into three gr oups (low, medium, and high anxiety) based on the anxiety score. At a later date, participants completed a humor scale, consisting of 28 humorous items (s uch as jokes and cartoons); half the items were death-related, and half non-death-related. People who scored hi gh in death anxiety rated the items as less humorous than did people who scored medium or low in death anxiety. However, no interaction was found between the two independent variables of death anxiety and death-relatedness of items; humor ratings of death-related a nd non-related items were equivalent. One explanation for Magers and Cabes findings is that people who have a poor sense of humor, and therefore find humorous items less funny than most people do, are unable to buffer death concerns using humor and thus experience more death anxiety. Whereas these individuals are less inclined to see humor regardless of them e, perhaps it is these individuals diminished ability to see the humor in death-related humor that most contributes to their elevated death anxiety; this is an open question. Regardless, if it the case that a poor sens e of humor contributes to death anxiety, it would suggest that viewing humor is not enough to reduce death concerns; one must also appreciate the humor. Thorson and Powell (1993) found that dimini shed use of coping humor predicts high death anxiety. In their experiment, participants completed the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale (MSHS), developed by the authors. The ques tionnaire consists of 24 statements about sense of humor, which participants score from 1 to 5. The scale items load onto four factors:
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 25 humor generation/creativity, co ping humor, appreciation of hum or, and the appreciation of humorous people. Participants also completed the Revised Death Anxiet y scale, in order to assess correlations between death anxiety scores and humor style. Although higher death anxiety was associated with lower overall MSHS scor es, the strongest negative correlation was found between death anxiety and the coping humor subscal e. That is, the higher an individuals death anxiety, the less she or he used c oping humor. One explanation for this finding is that high death anxiety leads to diminished use of coping humor perhaps because people who are worried about death are less able to recognize or appreciate the humor in humor ous material. However, it is also plausible that diminished use of coping hum or caused participants elevated death anxiety. The coping humor subscale of the MSHS measures the extent to which people use humor as an adaptive mechanism, and includes items such as coping by using humor is an elegant way of adapting. Participants who score low on the coping humor scale would presumably be less likely to use death humor (or any form of hu mor) to cope with death concerns, perhaps explaining their heightened death anxiety. Of course, many plausible explanations exist fo r the results of the two studies I have just related other than the explan ations I have described. Wher eas these studies suggest the plausibility of my hypothesis, additional resear ch must test the hypothe sis more directly. To note, there is some reason to think that viewing a non -death-related cartoon might reduce DTA following MS. As I just described, copi ng humor use is related to low death anxiety (Thorson & Powell, 1993), and it might be the case that use of coping humor of any type reduces concerns about death. Furtherm ore, viewing a non-death-rela ted humorous stimulus in an experimental context reduces anxiety, although th e relevance of this result to the present experiment is tenuous. In the experiment by Powell and Thorson (1991), fifty-three
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 26 undergraduates completed the Multidimensional Sense of Hu mor Scale (MSHS) (Powell & Thorson, 1991). The undergraduates scoring abov e the 50th percentile on the scale were designated as having a high sense of humor, and those below the 50th percentile were designated as having a low sense of humor. Participants were told they would receive an electric shock in 12 min. Participants then listened to either a hum orous tape, a nonhumorous tape, or no tape. During the period in which participants anticipated the shock, they completed a measure of self-reported anxiety, and their heart rate and zygomatic facial activity was assessed (zygomatic facial activity indicates the extent to which one is smiling). Participants wh o had a high sense of humor had lower anxiety ratings than participants with a low sense of humor in all conditions, although no difference in heart rate was observed between pe ople with high and low senses of humor. Similarly, participants who listened to the humorous tape (regardless of wh ether they had a high or low sense of humor) had lower self-reported anxiet y scores than participants who listened to a nonhumorous tape or no tape, but no differences in heart rate were observed across conditions.The results of this study might indi cate that whereas humorous stimuli does not reduce physiological responses to anxiety (such as increased hear t rate), individuals with high sense of humor or who listen to a humorous tape experience a decline in anxious thoughts or feelings. It is possible that viewing non-death-relate d humor could reduce DTA by reducing state anxiety, or otherwise placing participants in a good mood. However, DTA does not generally correlate with state anxiety or with negativ e mood. DTA is only reduced when participants perceive death as less threaten ing, and state anxiety or mood does not necessarily influence participants perception of the threat of death. B ecause of this, I did not hypothesize that viewing a non-death-related cartoon w ould reduce DTA, although this prediction was tentative.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 27 To summarize, it is not only theoretically plausible that death-humor serves a terror management function, but preliminary experimental evidence also aligns with this hypothesis. Theoretically, death humor may reduce concerns about death by facilitati ng the perception that death is benign because only benign entities are the subject of humor, or by personifying death to a tangible and less threatening form. Experimental results align with th e hypothesis that death humor reduces death concerns. For example, par ticipants reminded of death increase their liking for a death-related cartoon, and use of coping hum or (perhaps death humor) is related to low death anxiety. The Present Study The present experiment assessed whether vi ewing a humorous death-related cartoon after MS attenuates death concerns, a nd thus reduces DTA after it has been elevated by MS. The basic design of the study was as follows : After being reminded of death, participants were exposed to one of four possible images, one of which wa s a death-related cartoon. After exposure to the images, DTA was assessed. To test for the possibility that viewing a ny form of humor reduces DTA, regardless of whether it is related to death, some particip ants viewed a humorous but non-death-related cartoon after MS and prior to completing the meas ure of DTA. Furthermore, to control for the possibility that viewing a personi fication of death (the Grim Reap er) regardless of whether it is embedded in a humorous context buffers concerns about death, some participants viewed a drawing of the Grim Reaper after MS a nd prior to completing the DTA measure. It is somewhat plausible that viewing a personification of deat h (the Grim Reaper) that is not embedded in a humorous context would re duce DTA, since it is feasible that the personification of death is the mechanism by whic h death humor reduces DTA (if it in fact does).
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 28 If this is the mechanism, a simple personificat ion of death should also reduce DTA. However, given the additional and potentially more plausibl e theoretical reasons that death-related humor might reduce DTA aside from its ability to pe rsonify death, it was hypothesized that viewing death humor would uniquely attenuate DTA after MS. Method Participants The participants in the study consisted of 40 undergraduates en rolled at a small liberal arts college in southern Florid a. Of those who participated, 24 were female and 16 were male. All participants were over 18 years of age. Part icipants were recruite d via a school-wide email forum. Because disclosure of the true purpose of the study would prevent participants from responding naturally to the stim uli and questions, the study was framed as an assessment of personality and cognitive style. Thus th e recruitment message read as follows: Hello! I am conducting my thesis study on personali ty and cognitive style. The purpose of this research study is to examine the correlations between personality and cognitive style. I am interested in whether certain pe rsonalities are correlated with certain cognitive styles. Your cognitive style refers to the manner in which you generally perceive and process stimuli and respond to cognitive tasks. During the study, you will be asked to fill out pers onality measures as well as complete some measures designed to assess your cognitive style. The personality measures will ask you about your tr aits, feelings, and opinions. For example, one of the questionnaires will ask you to rate your agr eement with statements such as, I am someone who is talkative." For some of the personality measures, you will be prompted to answer openended questions about your f eelings in paragraph form. The cognitive tasks designed to assess your cognitiv e style will be varied. For example, for one cognitive task, you will be asked to provide your opinion of an image (a drawing). For another task, you will be asked to complete word stems with full words. YOUR PARTICIPATION WILL TAKE A PPROXIMATELY 30 MINUTES. PLEASE PARTICIPATE ONLY IF YOU HAVE 30 MI NUTES TO DEVOTE TO THE STUDY, AND CAN COMPLETE THE STUDY IN A QUIET PLAC E WITHOUT DISTRACTION. At the end of the study, you will be asked to provide you r mailbox number and email it to me with a specific title, and I will put the compensa tion ($3 in an envelope!) in your mailbox.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 29 A link to the online survey was provided at the bottom of the recruitment message. Each participant received $3 as compen sation for her or his participation. Materials To maintain this cover story, participants completed the Big Five Personality Inventory (Hendriks, Hofstee, & De Raad, 1999) at the be ginning of the experiment. Participants also completed a neutral word-stem completion task that was framed as a measure of cognitive style, in which they comple ted word stems with real wo rds. The Morningness/Eveningness scale (Horne & Ostberg, 1976) was also used as a filler personality questionnaire, and was used to provide a delay between the MS/control prom pts and the cartoons in order to allow DTA. A mortality salience prompt, designed to re mind participants of death, and a control prompt, designed to remind participants of somethi ng negative (but not death), were used as the two levels of the first independent variable. The mortality salience prompt required participants to respond to the following open-ended cues: 1. Take a moment to think about your own eventual death. Please briefly describe the emo tions that the thought of your own death arouses in you. 2. Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to your body as you die and decay. The control prompt consisted of the following cues: 1. Take a moment to think of the experience of intense, but non life-threatening, pa in. Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of experiencing intense pain arouses in you. 2. Jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to your body as you experience intense pain. Four images were used as the four levels of the second independent variable (image): a death-related cartoon (DC), a death-related image (DI), a control cartoon (CC), and a control image (CI) (see Appendix A). Thus the imag es varied on two factors: 1) whether or not they were related to death, and 2) whether or not they were humo rous (i.e., whether they were a
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 30 cartoon or merely an image). P ilot testing confirmed that the death-related cartoon and the nondeath-related cartoon were perceived as equally humorous. The death-rela ted cartoon depicted the Grim Reaper responding with LOL (laugh out loud) to a text message that read Im texting while driving! from an individual driving a car. The cont rol cartoon involved the instructor of a class called Dentistry 101 writ ing translations such as EEACK = yes on a blackboard. The death-related imag e was a drawing of the grim reaper. The control image was a realistic drawing of an apple. All of the images were approximately the same size and black-andwhite. The Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) (Watson & Clark, 1992) was included to assess participants emotional state after completing the independent measures, as well as provide a delay between the images and the DTA measure. A delay between the images and the DTA measure was necessary to ensure that any re duction in DTA was due to the capacity of the death images to reduce death concerns, rather than simply their capacity to act as death reminders and trigger renewed suppression of death thoughts. If DTA was found to be low immediately after viewing the images, this could be due to either renewed suppression or death thought dissipation; however, if DTA was found to be low after a delay, this could not be explained by renewed suppression of death thou ghts since death thought s uppression only occurs immediately after reminders of death. The Death-Thought Accessibility (DTA) (Gree nberg et al., 2000) measure was presented to assess the accessibility of death-related though ts to consciousness, after participants had completed the independent measures. The DTA m easure consists of word stems that can be completed to make a death-related or non-death related word (for example, the word stem coff__ can be completed as coffee or coffin). If a participant comp letes a large amount of
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 31 word stems with death-related words (and thus ob tains a high DTA score), it indicates that deathrelated thoughts are highly accessible to her or his consciousness. Participants were told to complete the word stems with the first word th at came to mind. A participants DTA score was the number of wordstems she or he completed with death-related words, out of the total of 25 wordstems. Procedure To begin the study, participants clicked a link to the online survey at the bottom of the recruitment email sent to the schoolwide forum. The link opened a consent form, in which the cover story for the experiment was re-iterated an d the risks and benefits to participation were outlined. To access the survey, participants clicke d a button to indicate that they wished to participate. Participants first completed the Big Five Pers onality Inventory, in which they rated their agreement with statements such as I am talka tive. Then, they completed the neutral word stem completion task. After the completion of these filler measures, participants completed either the death prompts or neutral prompts. Four fifths of participants we re randomly assigned to complete the death prompt, and one fifth of participants were randomly assigned to complete the control prompt. The fact that four fifths of participants completed the death prompt while only one fifth completed the neutral prompt warrants explanatio n. Due to an expected limitation on sample size (only 40 participants were recruited), the number of conditions in the experiment was kept to a minimum. Because differences in DTA were not confidently expected to emerge based on which image was viewed by participants who completed the control prompt (and, even if they were, would not be crucial to drawing conclusions regarding the interp lay between death concerns and
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 32 death humor in the experiment), participants who viewed the control prompt were all assigned to view the control image (the drawing of the appl e). Participants in this condition would not be expected to have elevated DTA, since they we re not reminded of death at any point during the experiment. Thus, the DTA of participants in this group could be compared to the DTA of participants in the MS/c ontrol image condition to determine wh ether MS indeed elevated DTA in this experiment. After completing the MS or control prompts, participants completed the MorningnessEveningness scale, which consists of questions such as, Approximately what time would you go to bed if you were entirely free to plan your even ing? This questionnaire was inserted to provide a delay between the MS/control prompts and images so that DTA could ri se. It was important that DTA was allowed to rise (for participants induced with MS) after th e MS prompts because I desired to assess whether vi ewing a death cartoon would reduce elevated DTA, not whether viewing a death cartoon prev ented a rise in DTA. After completing the Morningness-Eveningness s cale, participants saw one of the four images. Participants were asked to rate their ag reement with five statem ents about the image. The statements were: I like this image, I th ink the image is funny, I think the image is skillfully drawn, I would like to meet the artis t of the image, and The image does not suit my taste (reverse scored). The ques tions were included to ensure th at participants found the death cartoon and dentist carto on to be equally funny and likable. If participants did NOT find them equally funny or equally likable any differences in DTA that emerged between these conditions could be due to differences in liking of the imag es or perceptions of how funny the images were. Participants then completed the PANAS. This ensured that a dela y existed between the images and the DTA measure, so that reduced DTA following the viewing of the death-related
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 33 images could not be explained by renewed suppr ession of death thoughts (since suppression of death thoughts only occurs immedi ately after death reminders). Finally, participants completed the DTA measure. After the completion of this measure, participants were directed to a debriefing page. The debriefi ng page provided an overview of TMT and thoroughly explained the tr ue nature of the experiment. Participants were encouraged to contact me via email if they had further ques tions (my email address was also provided on the consent page at the beginning of th e experiment). Participants were instructed to email me their school mailbox numbers. I placed $3 in an envelope in each pa rticipants mailbox. Results The mean DTA of participants in the MS/Apple condition was 1.333 ( SD = 0.985), the mean DTA of participants in the MS/Dentist cartoon was 1.000 ( SD = 0.816), the mean DTA of participants in the MS/Grim reaper was 1.364 ( SD = 1.120), and the mean DTA of participants in the MS/Death cartoon was 1.090 ( SD = 0.816). In previous TMT experiments, the mean DTA of participants who are NOT reminded of death is around 1 (J. Greenber g, personal communication, April 22, 2012); thus when death th oughts arent activated for peopl e, they complete an average of 1 word stem with a death word. Therefore, it can be said participants exposed to MS in the present experiment failed to exhi bit elevated DTA at the time th ey completed the DTA measure. It is surprising that even part icipants in the MS/Apple condition did not exhibit elevated DTA, considering there is no obvious reason why the apple image would reduce concerns about death. Other than the possibility that viewing any one of the images reduced DTA, other explanations for the non-elevated DTA of participants exposed to MS are that the MS prompt simply failed to elevate death concerns in the first place, or that MS-induced participants became concerned about death immediately after being reminded of it but subsequently successfully suppressed
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 34 thoughts death for the remainder of the experime nt. Interestingly, par ticipants in the noMS/Apple condition completed an average of 2.333 word stems with death words ( SD = 0.516). In previous TMT experiments, participants e xposed to MS completed an average of 2 word stems with death words after a delay; thus, the av erage DTA of 2 displayed by participants in the no-MS/Apple indicates th at they exhibited elevated DTA at the time they completed the DTA measure. A one sample t -test confirmed that the mean DTA of participants in the no-MS/Apple condition was indeed significantly hi gher than the population DTA of 1 ( t (18) = 6.32, p = .0015). A confidence interval calc ulation revealed that it can be conc luded with 95% confidence that the population from which the sample was deri ved has a mean DTA between 1.7914 and 2.8753. An ANOVA between all five condi tions was all significant ( F (4,35) = 5.33, p = 0.0346), and Tukeys Studentized Range (HSD) te st revealed that the particip ants in the no-MS condition had DTAs significantly higher than the DTAs of participants in other conditions (there were no other significant differences) (minimum significant difference = 0.918). Th is is surprising, considering these participants were not deliberately reminde d of death at any point during the experiment. A one-way ANOVA was conducted to discer n whether the DTA of MS induced participants differed according to which image they viewed. Ther e was no significant differences in DTA between conditions ( F (3,36) = 0.34, p = .793). Thus, for participants reminded of death, the images did not differentially reduce (or incr ease) DTA. There was no effect of gender on DTA. A t -test was performed to assess whether the DTA of participants in the no-MS/Apple condition was significantly higher than the DTA of participants in the MS/Apple condition. These two conditions were compared because in both conditions participants saw the apple image, but in one condition participants were re minded of death and in the other condition they
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 35 were not; thus, the effect of mortality sali ence on DTA could be observed (assuming that viewing the apple image would have no effect on the DTA induced by MS). It was expected that participants in the MS/Apple c ondition would exhibit higher DTA than participants in the noMS/Apple condition. However, a t-test revealed that the DTA of pa rticipants in the no-MS/Apple condition was significantly higher than the DTA of participants in the MS/Apple condition ( t (17) = 2.31, p = .035). Rather than elevating DTA, morta lity salience apparently lowered it. Of course, other factors could expl ain the difference in DTA betw een these groups. For example, perhaps neuroticism is associated with elevated DTA, and participants in the no-MS/Apple group just happened to be more neurotic than participants in the other groups. To assess whether participants assigned to the no-MS/Apple condition happened to possess unusual characteristics that would explain their elevated DT A, participants scores on the Neuroticism subscale of the Big Five Personality Inventory were computed. Their scores on the nervousness item of the PANAS-X was also computed. An ANOVA revealed no significant difference in neuroticism across conditions ( F (4,35) = 0.60, p = 0.665), although mean Neuroticism was highest in the no-MS/Apple cond ition. Neuroticism did not correlate with DTA. Mean nervousness was not higher in the no-MS/A pple condition than in other conditions, nor was nervousness correlated with DTA. This suggests that the elevated DTA of participants in the no-MS/Apple condition cannot be explained by a chance clusteri ng of neurotic or nervous individuals in this group. After viewing the images, part icipants were asked to rate how funny they found them on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being not funny at al l and 5 being very funny, and how much they liked them on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being strongly dislike and 5 be ing like very much. Participants found the death ca rtoon and dentist cartoon to be equally funny. The mean humor
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 36 rating given to the death cartoon was 3.727 ( SD = .700), and the mean humor rating given to the dentist cartoon was 3.700 ( SD = 1.04). Participants liked the deat h cartoon slightly more than the dentist cartoon. Mean liking fo r the death cartoon was 3.9 ( SD = 0.700) and mean liking for the dentist cartoon was 3.4 ( SD = 1.04). A t-test revealed that li king was not significantly higher in the MS/Death cartoon condition than in the MS/Dentist cartoon condition ( t (17) = 1.39, p = 0.180). It is possible that the fi nding that liking was higher in th e MS/Death cartoon than in the MS/Dentist condition would have become signifi cant if the sample si ze was larger (only 18 participants could be incl uded in this analysis). Discussion It was hypothesized that for participants e xperiencing a high level of unconscious death thought activation as a result of MS, viewing a d eath cartoon would bring DTA back to baseline. This hypothesis was not confirme d. MS induced participants e xposed to the death cartoon did not exhibit lower DTA relative to MS indu ced participants who viewed other images. One explanation for these results is that the MS induction failed to elevate DTA in the first place. As noted earlier, when participants are not reminded of death, they complete an average of 1 word stem with a death-related wor d. When participants are reminded of death, they complete an average of 2 word stems with death-related words (J. Greenberg, personal communication, April 22, 2012). Thus it can be said that participants who complete an average of 1 word stem with a death word are experien cing non-elevated DTA, whereas participants who complete an average of 2 word stems with deat h words are experiencing elevated DTA. None of the participants exposed to MS exhibited elevat ed DTA, including the participants who saw the apple image. If the MS prompt indeed increased DTA, DTA would be expect ed to be elevated in at least the MS/apple condition, since there is no obvious reason why viewing the image of the
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 37 apple would reduce DTA. Thus, it can be reason ably speculated that the MS prompt simply failed to increase DTA. Indeed, MS prompts do not consistently i nduce terror management defenses such as worldview defensiveness, and it can be extra polated from this that MS prompts do not consistently induce elevated DTA (since worl dview defensiveness is usually preceded by elevated DTA). Mindset plays a role in determin ing how participants react to MS. For example, terror management researchers have found that participants fail to exhibit worldview defensiveness in response to MS in studies in wh ich the experimenter is wearing a lab coat, as opposed to casual attire, presumably because the presence of the formally dressed experimenter induces participants with an analytic minds et (J. Greenberg, pers onal communication, August 2011 ). According to TMT theorists, participan ts who are in an experiential mindset (i.e., unfocused and reactive) respond with more worl dview defensiveness to MS prompts than do participants who are in an anal ytical mindset (i.e., focused a nd cognitively active). In the present experiment, participants completed the study in whatever locatio n they found convenient. Although the instructions specified that participants complete th e study at a time in which they would not be distracted, the environments in wh ich participants actually completed the study are unknown. Perhaps many MS induced participants completed the study in environments conducive to an analytic mindset or perhaps something else about the environments in which they completed the study prevented the MS pr ompts from affecting their psychology in the desired fashion. It is also possibl e that reading the inst ructions for the study induced participants with an analytic mindset, perhaps because the concept of cognitive style was unfamiliar to them.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 38 Another explanation for the finding that par ticipants exposed to MS failed to exhibit elevated DTA is that these participants succe ssfully suppressed death thoughts for a long period of time after being exposed to MS. As noted in the introduction, part icipants are usually successful in their efforts to suppress death thoug hts immediately after an MS prompt, resulting in non-elevated DTA immediately after exposure to the MS prompt. It is possible that, despite the large delay between the MS prompts and th e measure of DTA, participants were still successfully suppressing death thoughts as they completed th e DTA measure in the present experiment. This explanation is supported by th e fact that participants in the no-MS/Apple condition exhibited elevated DTA, indicating that the normal or trait DTA of the population from which the study was derived is probably around 2. If this is true, it signifies that participants in the MS conditi ons were in fact exhibiting sub normal DTA, perhaps due to prolonged suppression efforts. Why would participants in th is experiment continue to s uppress death thoughts long after being reminded of death? Are th ere any features of the populati on from which the sample was derived that would indicate th at the population differs from ot her populations in a manner that would explain the tendency to ward prolonged suppression? Ag ain, a striking result of the experiment was that participants who were not induced with MS and who only saw the drawing of the apple--and thus, were not reminded of deat h at all--exhibited elevated DTA. The elevated DTA of participants in the noMS/apple conditions suggests that the population from which the sample was derived is in fact unique in terms of baseline or trait DTA. By baseline DTA, I simply mean the level of DTA present day-to-day in the absence of death reminders. Of course, we cannot definitively conclude that the populati on that the sample was derived from (i.e., the population of students at the co llege at which the study was co nducted, or perhaps the population
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 39 of students at the college who decided to pa rticipate) has higher trait DTA than other populations; after all, only 6 participants were randomly assigned to the no-MS/apple condition, and these participants may be unrepresentativ e of any population that incorporates all the participants in the study. Howeve r, if it is the case that the population of, say, students at the college at which the study was conducted in deed possesses higher trait DTA than other populations, this would perhaps indicate that the population is particularly anxious about death. If the population is particularly anxious about death, the population might become particularly alarmed by death reminders, and therefore engage in active suppression af ter the death reminder for a longer period of time than other populatio ns would. This would ex plain the low DTA of participants in the MS conditions. There is reason to believe that the population of students at the small liberal arts college at which the study was conducted are particular ly anxious about death. Many students in the population are atheist/agnostic and liberal. Perhaps these features, or other features, of the students make them less inclined to follow rigi d, cultural worldviews. This would make them more susceptible to worry over death, and more likely to have high baseline DTA. Jeff Greenberg (personal communication, April 23rd, 2012) suggested that students at the college at which the study was conducted may be extra smart and thus suppress longer and more effectively. It is indeed pl ausible that students at this pa rticular college are smarter than students at universities at which TMT experiment s have been traditionally conducted, such as the University of Arizona, due to variation in the st ringency of admission requirements. If students at this particular college have unus ual self-regulatory skill, perhaps they were able to actively suppress death thoughts even while co mpleting the filler questionnaires.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 40 The pattern of results make it difficult to draw even preliminary conclusions regarding the relationship between death humor (or humor of other themes). Athough the results of this experiment did not support the hypothesis that viewing death humor re duces concerns about death, the results are not inconsistent with the hyp othesis, either. In othe r words, the results did not disprove the hypothesis that death humor bu ffers concerns about death, as might be the case if all participants exposed to MS exhibited elevated DTA, regardless of which image they viewed. However, one might object that results are not consistent with th e hypothesis, since viewing the death cartoon did not reduce DTA from the baseline level of 1 to the level of 0. However, it is my view that this objection is unfair. It is entire ly conceivable that a cartoon with the capacity to reduce elevated DTA (and therefore be considered capable of buffering concerns about death) would not reduce baseline DT A to an even lower level (i.e., 0). Let us examine how this could be so. If pe oples baseline DTA (the DTA they exhibit without being reminded of death, which is usually 1) is the number of word stems they complete with death words in the absence of death conc ern, then stimuli that generally buffers death concerns cannot further reduce co ncern (since there canno t be negative concern). Therefore it is a mistake to expect that stimuli that buffe r concern should further reduce DTA, as might be expected if baseline DTA indicated the presen ce of concern. It is indeed reasonable that participants would complete an average of 1 word stem with a death word in the absence of death concern, just by chance. However, it could be the case that baseline DTA does not reflect the absence of death concern, but simply the normal level of death concer n people experience dayto-day. If this is the case, stimuli that buffer concerns could theo retically reduce baseline DTA by reducing the
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 41 amount of quotidian death concern people are experiencing. Still, th e DTA measure simply might not be sensitive enough to capture a reduction in concern below a certain threshold. If it is the case that participants do complete an averag e of 1 word stem with a death word just by chance, participants with a slight level of death concern will exhibit the same DTA as participants with no level of d eath concern; thus the DTA measur e would not detect differences in concern from slight concern to no concern, which is presumably the range of concern that would be implicated in the assessment of the eff ect of anxiety-buffering stimuli on baseline death concern. If this is true, it could be said that mean DTA has a floor; it cannot be lower than one, despite fluctuations in death concern among participants who exhibit a DTA of one. To summarize, it is conceivable that stimuli could buffer concerns a nd yet fail to reduce baseline DTA. DTA may have a floor, rendering DTA measures impotent in capturing reductions in concern below a threshold, while successfully cap turing reductions in co ncern within the abovethreshold ranges. Thus, we cannot infer that th e failure of viewing the death cartoon to reduce baseline DTA, presuming that baseline DTA is one, is proof that viewing it does not reduce concerns about death. However, as elaborated earlier, the elevat ed DTA of participants in the no-MS/Apple condition suggests that partic ipants baseline DTA is not 1, but closer to 2. If this is the case, a plausible explanation for the non-elevated DTAs of participants in the MS conditions is that the MS prompts reduced DTA. Again, this interpretation is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that death humor can reduce death concerns. The mo st likely mechanism for the reduction in DTA caused by MS is that participants successfully suppressed death thoughts fo r the remainder of the experiment after being reminded of death. If participants actively s uppressed death thoughts, their DTA would be low in all MS conditions (as it was), maski ng any change in concern that
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 42 might have emerged as a result of viewing a concern-buffering cartoon. Even if viewing the death cartoon relaxed suppressi on activity and dissipated DTA, the end result would be low DTA, indistinguishable from the low DTA exhi bited by participants who engaged in active suppression throughout the experime nt. It simply cannot be determined from the current experiment whether or not death hu mor reduces concerns about death. Limitations and Future Directions It was impossible to deduce whether death hum or reduced concerns about death from the results of this experiment. As already noted, it is possible that the MS prompts failed to induce elevated DTA, despite the fact that standard MS prompts were used. It is also plausible that the population from which the sample was derive d had unusually high DTA (and perhaps unusually high anxiety about death), leadi ng to abnormal patterns of suppre ssion of death thoughts. Either of these scenarios would minimize the ability of the experimental desi gn to assess whether viewing death humor can be a Terror Management defense. This research project had several limitations, the most glaring being that the sample size was only 40. The small sample size necessitated that differences in DTA between conditions would have to be of high magnitude (or very low standard deviation) to be statistically significant. It is possible that minor differences in DTA between conditions would have become significant with a much larger sample size. Fu ture research should fu rther investigate the propensity for death humor to buffer concerns about death, either via replic ation of this study or by alternative methods. An example of an altern ative method that could be used to discern whether death humor buffers death concerns is to assess whether viewi ng a death-related cartoon prevents worldview defensiveness after mortality is made salient. It would also be useful to test
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 43 the hypothesis-already supported by Hackneys (2011) findings-that MS elevates liking for humorous, death-related stimuli. The finding that participants who were not reminded of death throughout the experiment exhibited elevated DTA is surprising, and possi bly indicates that the population the study was conducted on has unusually high DTA. The dete rminants of high baseline DTA should be investigated in future researc h. I proposed that in the presen t study, the non-elevated DTA of participants in the MS conditions is possibly due to the fact th at participants suppressed death thoughts for a long period of time after being remi nded of death. Future research should examine whether or not some populations are particul arly adept at successfully suppressing death thoughts for long periods of time, and what factors contribute to this ability. Conclusion The present study investigated whether death-related humor reduces DTA after participants have been reminded of their own death. Participants were exposed to MS, and then shown one of four images: A d eath related cartoon, a cartoon about dentistr y, a drawing of the grim reaper, or a drawing of an apple. Some pa rticipants were not exposed to MS, and all of these participants were shown the apple image. The results of the experiment were surprising: None of the participants exposed to MS exhibited elevated DTA, whereas the participants in the no-MS/Apple condition exhibited elevated DTA. Thes e findings suggest a potential failure of the MS manipulation to induce elev ated DTA, or that the popu lation possesses unusually high baseline DTA and suppresses death thoughts unusu ally successfully. Alth ough the findings of the study did not confirm or disconfirm the original hypothesis, they have led to interesting new questions and hypotheses. Future research should expl ore these hypotheses, as well as continue to investigate the intricate relations hip between death anxiety and humor.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 44 References Arndt, J., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Pys zczynski, T., & Simon, L. (1997). Suppression, accessibility of death-related thoughts, and cu ltural worldview defense: Exploring the psychodynamics of terror management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73 (1), 5-18. Arndt, J., Routledge, C., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2 006). Predicting proximal health responses to reminders of death: The influence of coping style and health optimism. Psychology & Health, 21 (5), 593-614. Arndt, J., Schimel, J., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2003). Death can be good for your health: Fitness intentions as a proximal and distal defense against mortality salience. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33 (8), 1726-1746. Becker, E. (1975). Escape from evil New York, N. Y.: The Free Press. Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. ernest becker New York: Free Press. Burke, B. L., Martens, A., & Faucher, E. H. (2010). Two decades of terror management theory: A meta-analysis of mortality salience research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14 (2), 155-195. Elgee, N. J. (2004). Laughing at death. In J. S. Piven, & J. S. Piven (Eds.), The psychology of death in fantasy and history. (pp. 291-310). Westport, CT US: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group. Florian, V., Mikulincer, M., & Hi rschberger, G. (2002). The anxi ety-buffering function of close relationships: Evidence that relationship commitment acts as a terror management mechanism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82 (4), 527-542. Freud, S. (1928). Der humor. Imago, 14 1-6.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 45 Goldenberg, J. L., Cox, C. R., Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (2002). Understanding human ambivalence about sex: The effects of stripp ing sex of meaning. Journal of Sex Research, 39 (4), 310-320. Greenberg, J., Arndt, J., Schimel, J., Pyszcz ynski, T., & Solomon, S. (2001). Clarifying the function of mortality salience-induced worldvi ew defense: Renewed suppression or reduced accessibility of death-related thoughts? Journal of Experiment al Social Psychology, 37 (1), 70-76. Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., Rose nblatt, A., Veeder, M., Kirkland, S., et al. (1990). Evidence for terror management theory II: The effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who threaten or bolster the cultural worldview. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58 (2), 308-318. Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., Simon, L., & Breus, M. (1994). Role of consciousness and accessibility of death-related thoughts in mortality salience effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67 (4), 627-637. Hackney, C. H. (2011). The effect of mortality salience on the evaluation of humorous material. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151 (1), 51-62. Hayes, J., Schimel, J., Arndt, J., & Faucher, E. H. (2010). A theoretical and empirical review of the death-thought accessibility concep t in terror management research. Psychological Bulletin, 136 (5), 699-739. Hendriks, A. A. J., Hofstee, W. K. B., & De Raad, B. (1999). The five-factor personality inventory (FFPI). Personality and Individual Differences, 27 (2), 307-325.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 46 Horne, J. A., & Ostberg, O. A. (1976). A self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms. International Journal of Chronobiology, (4), 97. Mager, M., & Cabe, P. A. (1990). Effect of deat h anxiety on perception of death-related humor. Psychological Reports, 66 (3), 1311-1314. Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (1 999). A dual-process model of defense against conscious and unconscious death-related though ts: An extension of terror management theory. Psychological Review, 106 (4), 835-845. Rachman, S. J. (2010). Courage: A ps ychological perspective. In C. L. S. Pury, S. J. Lopez, C. L. S. Pury & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The psychology of courage: Mo dern research on an ancient virtue. (pp. 91-107). Washington, DC US: Amer ican Psychological Association. Rosenblatt, A., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Py szczynski, T., & Lyon, D. (1989). Evidence for terror management theory: I. the effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who violate or uphold cultural values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (4), 681690. Rosenblatt, A., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Py szczynski, T., & Lyon, D. (1989). Evidence for terror management theory: I. the effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who violate or uphold cultural values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (4), 681690. Rutjens, B. T., van, d. P., & van Harreveld, F. (2009). Things will get better: The anxietybuffering qualities of progressive hope. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35 (5), 535-543.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 47 Samson, A. C., & Gross, J. J. (2012). Humour as emotion regulation: The differential consequences of negative versus positive humour. Cognition and Emotion, 26 (2), 375-384. Smeichel, B.,Gailliot,Matthew T.; Filar do,Emily-Ana; McGregor,Ian; Gitter,Seth; Baumeister,Roy F. Terror management theory and self-esteem re visited: The roles of implicit and explicit self-esteem in mortality salience effects J.Pers.Soc.Psychol., 2009, 96, 5, 1077-1087. Taubman-Ben-Ari, O., & Findler, L. (2005). Proximal and distal effects of mortality salience on willingness to engage in health pr omoting behavior along the life span. Psychology & Health, 20 (3), 303-318. Taubman-Ben-Ari, O., & Findler, L. (2005). Proximal and distal effects of mortality salience on willingness to engage in health pr omoting behavior along the life span. Psychology & Health, 20 (3), 303-318. Templar, D. I. (1970). The construction and validation of a death anxiety scale. The Journal of General Psychology, 82 (2) Thorson, J., & Powell, F. C. (1993). Development and validation of a multidimensional sense of humor scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49 (1), 13. Thorson, J. A. (1985). A funny thing happened on the way to the morgue: Some thoughts on humor and death, and a taxonomy of the humor associated with death. Death Studies, 9 (34), 201-216. Thorson, J. A., & Powell, F. C. (1993). Relati onships of death anxiet y and sense of humor. Psychological Reports, 72 (3), 1364-1366. Watson, D., & Clark, A. L. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the positive and negative affect scale expanded form. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Iowa,
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 48 Wegner, D. M. (1994). Ironic pr ocesses of me ntal control. Psychological Review, 101 (1), 34-52. Wegner, D. M., Schneider, D. J., Carter, S. R ., & White, T. L. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53 (1), 5-13. Wegner, D. M., & Smart, L. (1997). Deep c ognitive activation: A new approach to the unconscious. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65 (6), 984-995.
TERROR MANAGEMENT AND HUMOR 49 Appendix ( DTA Measure) 1. CO S 14. CHA 2. M N 15. CL K 3. OK 16. COFF 4. WAT 17. LA 5. FO 18. W DOW 6. DE 19. DE 7. B K 20. SK L 8. B T LE 21. P P R 9. ASS 22. MOV 10. P TURE 23. TR 11. FL W R 24. CA 12. KI ED 25. CO SE 13. K GS