Preferred Name

Peter Montwill

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Lindsey Harvell-Bowman

Jeff Dyche

Benjamin T. Blankenship

Patrick Merle


The present study explores the link between Terror Management Theory and the use of its principles within news media. Political news media in the digital age undergoes a variety of framing effects, more specifically episodic and thematic frames of stories. To induce mortality salience, college-aged participants were presented with stories framed from the perspective of an individual’s experience or a general theme of experiences regarding the controversial pro-life topic and a non-controversial hiking topic. These stories are presented in the style of Instagram posts to mirror how college-aged people consume news media. The stories also contain wording designed to induce mortality salience, creating avenues for worldview defense. Following the presentation of the news stories and a short delay, participants then completed a death thought accessibility measure and a questionnaire about their level of agreement or opposition to the news stories presented, displaying either worldview defense or greater worldview adherence. The results from this experiment show increased worldview defense for participants that viewed the controversial post and no significant differences in the amount of death thoughts present in the conscious, although the non-controversial image had a slightly higher average of death thoughts than the controversial post. The implications of these results are discussed.



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