Terror Management Theory and Self-Esteem Revisited: The Roles of Implicit and Explicit Self-Esteem in Mortality Salience Effects Academic Article uri icon


  • Three studies tested the roles of implicit and/or explicit self-esteem in reactions to mortality salience. In Study 1, writing about death versus a control topic increased worldview defense among participants low in implicit self-esteem but not among those high in implicit self-esteem. In Study 2, a manipulation to boost implicit self-esteem reduced the effect of mortality salience on worldview defense. In Study 3, mortality salience increased the endorsement of positive personality descriptions but only among participants with the combination of low implicit and high explicit self-esteem. These findings indicate that high implicit self-esteem confers resilience against the psychological threat of death, and therefore the findings provide direct support for a fundamental tenet of terror management theory regarding the anxiety-buffering role of self-esteem.

altmetric score

  • 6.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Schmeichel, B. J., Gailliot, M. T., Filardo, E., McGregor, I., Gitter, S., & Baumeister, R. F.

citation count

  • 112

publication date

  • May 2009