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Cultural influences on terror management Independent and interdependent self-esteem as anxiety buffers

, : Cultural influences on terror management Independent and interdependent self-esteem as anxiety buffers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49(6): 1002-1011

Terror management theory (TMT) proposes that self-esteem serves as a defense against the fear of death. Previous research has suggested that independent self-esteem is more salient in individualist cultures, whereas interdependent self-esteem is more salient in collectivist cultures. Thus, we hypothesized that in collectivist cultures, independent self-esteem would play a lesser role and interdependent self-esteem a greater role in terror management, compared to in individualist cultures. The results support this prediction. In Study 1, personal self-esteem was negatively associated with death anxiety in samples from a Western (Austria) and Eastern (China) culture. However, both self-liking and self-competence were negatively associated with death anxiety among Austrian participants, but only self-liking (and not self-competence) was so among Chinese participants. Surprisingly, collective self-esteem was not significantly correlated with death anxiety. Yet, Study 2 showed that among Chinese participants, relational self-esteem was negatively associated with death anxiety. Study 3 examined the roles of relational versus personal self-esteem in moderating the effects of mortality salience on worldview defense. Among Chinese participants, relational rather than personal self-esteem increased the defense of worldviews centered on collectivist-Chinese values following mortality salience (Study 3a). In contrast, among Austrian participants, personal rather than relational self-esteem attenuated the effect of mortality salience on the defense of individualist-Austrian worldviews (Study 3b). Self-esteem serves a terror management function in both collectivist and individualist cultures; however, the differences between cultural worldviews determine the type of self-esteem that is more relevant to terror management processes.


DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2013.06.007

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