Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
The present study sought to determine the conditions under which people were more or less likely to support restrictions on civil liberties in fighting the “War on Terror”. It was hypothesized that the more one identified with the victim of a terrorist attack, the higher their mortality salience (MS) would be, and the more likely they would be to support restricting civil liberties.
Study 1 piloted a questionnaire to measure MS. In Study 2, participants read a story about either a businessperson or a student who either went to the dentist for painful dental work, or perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Measures were then collected on the degree to which participants identified with the protagonist, their MS, and the degree to which they supported restricting civil liberties in fighting terror.
It was hypothesized that 1: the more one identified with the victims of a terrorist attack, the greater one’s mortality salience would be; 2: the greater one’s mortality salience, the more likely one would be to support restrictions on civil liberties; and 3: the greater one’s identification with the victim (in the 9/11, but not the dental pain condition), the more likely one would be to support restrictions on civil liberties.
For hypothesis 1, no significant effects relating to identification with the protagonist in the vignette were found in terms of variations in MS. Results did show, however, that there was a positive, marginally significant correlation between the degree to which one identified with the protagonist (in the 9/11 condition) and MS.
With regard to hypothesis 2, no significant main effects or interactions were found, indicating that, counter to our hypothesis, neither identifying with the victim nor one’s MS affected the degree to which one supported restricting civil liberties in fighting terrorism. Additionally, there was no significant correlation between MS and support for restrictions on civil liberties.
Likewise, support was not found for hypothesis 3, in that the degree to which one identified with the victim of a terrorist attack did not affect one’s support for restricting civil liberties.
Landau, Enoch S., "“Nous sommes tous Américains”: The Relationship Between Identification, Mortality Salience, and Responses to the “War on Terror”" (2007). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 849.