The Terror Management Theory

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Many may agree with the old saying that “beauty is only skin deep,” but does beauty come in a particular shade of color? This question is very debatable for many, but the fact of the matter is that human beings are born in array of skin tones. These differences in skin tone are used to categorize people into different ethnic groups. Lopez proposes that“ethnic identity is a type of group identity that is related to a better outcome because it provides a sense of belonging or cultural embeddedness.”(p.102) Dr. Ronald Hall (2006) suggests that in America minorities or people of color are called black in relative terms to the majority who are of European descent i.e. white. Some studies have discovered that a more “ethnic appearance” is usually assessed by a darker skin color i.e, black and is associated with a worse outcome in life (Lopez, 2008) In contrast, beauty, wealth and overall appeal are associated with physiological proximity to the white power structure i.e., light skin. (Hall, 2006) It appears as though desirable skin complexions are culturally relative. The terror management theory is a motivational theory which speculates that human beings have an underlying fear of death. These feelings are managed within that person by developing or maintaining a two- part cultural anxiety buffer; an individual worldview and a sense of self value or self-esteem. (Pyszczynski,Greenberg, & Solomon, 1997) According to the theory, high self-esteem reflects the successful participation in and internalization of meaningful cultural worldview. (Schmeichel, Gailliot, Filardo, MrGregor, Gitter, &Baumeister 2009) Goldenberg and Shakelford (2005) suggested that “the need for self-esteem is often seen as the master motive that underlies much o... ... middle of paper ... ...ive. Those who engage themselves in processes such as tanning or skin bleaching do so to help boost their self-esteem. From the perspective of the terror management theory, individuals are motivated to live up to cultural standards because doing so grants self-esteem. The boost in self-esteem acts as a buffer for potential anxiety relative to awareness of personal immortality. (Cox et al., 2009) TMT determines that people aim to live up to social standards in order deal with personal insecurities about dying. If a psychological structure provides protection from thoughts about death, then reminding people of death will increase the need for that structure. (Goldenberg, Pyzszcsynski, Greenberg,Solomon, Kluck, &Cornwall, 2001) Within terms of this study, it is speculated that as mortality salience increases, so does an individual’s need to alter his own skin color.
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