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An examination of defensive accommodation to threat: exploring the conditions under which people will modify their protective beliefs Open Access


Other title
Worldview Defense
Mortality Salience
Terror management theory
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Hayes, Joseph
Supervisor and department
Schimel, Jeff (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Masuda, Taka (Psychology)
Noels, Kim (Psychology)
Kuiken, Don (Psychology)
Fujiwara, Esther (Psychiatry)
Goldenberg, Jamie (Psychology)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Although terror management research has focused extensively on defensive responses to threat such as derogation, scant research to date has assessed alternative responses. One such alternative, termed accommodation, involves accepting and incorporating parts of the threatening information into existing belief-structures. The present research assessed the effects of threat, mortality salience, and trait self-esteem on accommodation of protective beliefs. Five studies are presented showing that people will generally accommodate their worldview (Studies 1-4) and self-esteem (Study 5) beliefs in response to threat. Moreover, accommodation is found to result from the same conditions that promote derogation (Study 4), and engaging in one type of defense was found to generally reduce the tendency to engage in another (Studies 2-5). In response to worldview threat under conditions of mortality salience, only participants with low self-esteem tended to respond with accommodation. Participants with high self-esteem, by contrast, refused to accommodate (Studies 1-3) and opted instead to derogate the source of threat (Studies 2-3). Inducing people with low self-esteem to affirm an important value prior to the mortality salience manipulation produced a similar tendency to forgo accommodation in favour of derogation (Study 3). Discussion focuses on implications for terror management theory generally, with specific reference to available responses to worldview and self-esteem threat, and the role of trait self-esteem in these responses.
License granted by Joseph Hayes ( on 2011-06-22T20:55:07Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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