The effect of mortality salience on the attitudes toward state control: The case of Russia

Olga A. Gulevich, Irina S. Prusova
Published Online:
13 Feb 2019

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Our study examined the effects of mortality salience (MS) on attitudes toward state control in different domains in Russia. Using the theory of Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition (CMSC) and the Terror Management Theory (TMT), we put forward two alternative hypotheses. Based on the CMSC, MS would enhance the approval of state control in different spheres, while, in line with TMT, the MS effect would be dependent on pre‐existing views. The participants in the study were 450 Russian students who completed a questionnaire to measure attitudes toward state control in six spheres of life (the economy, the mass media, political parties, social organisations, science and education). After a week, they were randomly assigned one of three conditions—MS, frightening, and a neutral condition—and again completed the questionnaire on political attitudes. Our results showed that MS mostly provokes “control shifting,” confirming the CMSC's hypothesis. However, a separate analysis conducted among people with different pre‐existing political attitudes has revealed that “control shifting” is more pronounced for freedom‐oriented participants. We discuss these findings in line with alternative views on the nature of the MS effect and specifics of socio‐political context.

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