Mortality Salience and Ideology

I've been reading a lot about ideology for a class recently and there have been a few insights that I've found to be pretty beneficial, beyond their use for academic purposes. One of the most interesting findings in the studies I've been reading is the concept of mortality salience (making subjects aware of the end of their own lives). Although there are a host of factors that contribute to the development of ideology (societal construction, heredity, childhood development, education, cognitive dispositions, &c), mortality salience was one that I had never really considered on its own merit.


"For example, mortality salience appears to produce greater patriotism and hostility toward critics of one’s nation, a stronger endorsement of the unique validity of one’s own religion, stronger support for traditional gender norms, greater attention to established norms of proce- dural fairness, increased levels of stereotyping, and a generally stronger preference for aggres- sive responses to individuals and groups who are perceived as threatening to the cultural world- view"

An experiment by Lavine et al. (2005) revealed that a mortality salience manipulation led high (but not low) authoritarians to se- lectively expose themselves to information in a manner that was consistent with their position on capital punishment. This find- ing suggests that not everyone responds to threatening stimuli in the same manner (see also Davis & Silver 2004, Stenner 2005). It is important to point out, however, that low authoritarians did not show greater open-mindedness (or a decrease in selective ex- posure) following mortality salience priming (Lavine et al. 2005, p. 232). Lavine et al. (2005) concluded their article by emphasiz- ing elective affinities, that is, “interactions between dispositional motivational needs and cognitive styles on one hand, and ex- igencies of the social and political environment on the other” (p. 240). Specifically, they suggested that those who tune into “the now ubiquitous format of one-sided (generally right-wing) talk radio (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly)” are motivated not merely by chronic anger and resentment but that “viewers’ preferences for one-sided vs ‘fair and balanced’ formats are at least partly a function of perceived environmental threat” (p. 240).

Certainly an interesting phenomena when applied in combination with demographics of aging voters, or in combination with religious groups.