Title of Abstract

The Effect of Mortality Salience and Trauma Exposure on Unrealistic Optimism and Death Anxiety

Poster Number

19

Faculty Mentor

Donna Nelson, Ph.D.; nelsond@winthrop.edu

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Donna Nelson, Ph.D.

Abstract

Recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the salience of mortality concerns across the globe. This heightened attention to life threatening illness and the constant reminders of death brought on by the pandemic, are likely to have implications for the emotional well-being of the general population. According to findings from studies of Terror Management Theory, mortality salience creates defensive strategies enacted to combat threatening feelings and minimize perceptions of personal vulnerability. Attempts to boost self-esteem, bolster one’s cultural worldview and perceive one’s life in favorable terms are examples of anxiety-buffering strategies. Some evidence suggests clinical populations of individuals suffering from severe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are less able to enact these defensive strategies because of a break-down in their anxiety-buffering system, brought about by severe trauma which violated their views of a safe and just world. Our study aims to examine the role of mortality salience on death anxiety, self-esteem and unrealistic optimism in a sub-clinical group of participants (not diagnosed with PTSD) who have or have not experienced prior trauma. We expect that those with (compared to without) a history of prior trauma will be more reactive to threats about mortality as a result of their traumatic experiences. They therefore will be more motivated to engage in defensive processes such as bolstering their self-esteem and engaging in unrealistic optimism about their future, in an attempt to shield themselves from heightened anxiety caused by reminders of death.

Additional Fields About Your Abstract

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Honors Thesis Committee

Donna Nelson, Ph.D.; Michael Lipscomb, Ph.D.; Kathleen West, Ph.D.; Melissa Reeves, Ph.D.

Honors Thesis Committee

Donna Nelson, Ph.D.; Michael Lipscomb, Ph.D.; Kathleen West, Ph.D.; Melissa Reeves, Ph.D.

Course Assignment

HONR 450H - Bloomquist; Nelson & HONR 451H - Lipscomb

Type of Presentation

Poster presentation

Start Date

16-4-2021 11:30 AM

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Apr 16th, 11:30 AM

The Effect of Mortality Salience and Trauma Exposure on Unrealistic Optimism and Death Anxiety

Recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the salience of mortality concerns across the globe. This heightened attention to life threatening illness and the constant reminders of death brought on by the pandemic, are likely to have implications for the emotional well-being of the general population. According to findings from studies of Terror Management Theory, mortality salience creates defensive strategies enacted to combat threatening feelings and minimize perceptions of personal vulnerability. Attempts to boost self-esteem, bolster one’s cultural worldview and perceive one’s life in favorable terms are examples of anxiety-buffering strategies. Some evidence suggests clinical populations of individuals suffering from severe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are less able to enact these defensive strategies because of a break-down in their anxiety-buffering system, brought about by severe trauma which violated their views of a safe and just world. Our study aims to examine the role of mortality salience on death anxiety, self-esteem and unrealistic optimism in a sub-clinical group of participants (not diagnosed with PTSD) who have or have not experienced prior trauma. We expect that those with (compared to without) a history of prior trauma will be more reactive to threats about mortality as a result of their traumatic experiences. They therefore will be more motivated to engage in defensive processes such as bolstering their self-esteem and engaging in unrealistic optimism about their future, in an attempt to shield themselves from heightened anxiety caused by reminders of death.