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Abstract or Description

This study examines the differences between two types of close relationships (friends and romantic partners) in moderating responses to mortality salience. Prior research has shown that mortality salience increases worldview defense as a mechanism for managing the terror of death. It was predicted that social support from romantic partners (but not friends) would alleviate the need to defend one's worldview in response to mortality salience. Following a mortality salience or control prime, participants were given a standardized support note from their friend or romantic partner pertaining to a speech the participants believed they would have to give. Participants were then asked to rate their perceptions of the note and their partner, and rate their opinions of a pro-American and anti-American essay (as a measure of worldview defense). A two-way ANOVA revealed a significant interaction between mortality salience and source of social support for worldview defense. Following mortality salience, support from a romantic partner led to less worldview defense than support from a friend. These findings suggest that romantic partners may provide a more effective buffer against existential-anxiety than friends and is consistent with predictions derived from terror management theory.


Advisor: Brooke Feeney

Department of Psychology

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