terror management
n. A set of personal or cultural practices or beliefs that enable an individual or a society to ignore or accept the inevitability of death. Also: terror management theory.

Example Citations:
The conservative psyche was recently plumbed by some top researchers from the University of California Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of Maryland College Park. ... According to the study, "terror management" is among "the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism." This feature, we learn, "can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished worldviews."
—Ann Coulter, "Just making things perfectly clear," The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 1, 2003

The purpose of this chapter is to explain the psychological underpinnings of conspicuous consumption from the perspective of terror management theory. . . . Our basic thesis is that conspicuous consumption is a direct result of the uniquely human awareness of mortality and the pursuit of self-worth and death transcendence that this awareness engenders.
—Sheldon Solomon, Jeffrey L. Greenberg, and Thomas A. Pyszczynski, In the Wake of 9/11," American Psychological Association, August, 2002

Earliest Citation:
The terror management theory, pioneered by Harvard psychologist Ernest Becker, contends that people adopt beliefs about reality to shield themselves from two unacceptable truths: The world is dangerous, and the only certainty is death. Cultures evolved to manage that terror, and they react violently when threatened by an outside person, group, or idea.
—Peter Overby, "As hate crimes increase, bigotry comes under closer scrutiny," The Record, August 5, 1990

Related Words: