Mortality salience and perceptions of people with AIDS: Understanding the role of prejudice

Kristin W. Grover, Carol T. Miller, Sheldon Solomon, Russell J. Webster, Donald A. Saucier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Study 1 examined the perceived association of AIDS and death by showing that thinking about AIDS increased participants' death-thought accessibility. Hypotheses about the consequences of this association for perceptions of people with AIDS were derived from terror management theory, which proposes that mortality salience increases derogation of those who threaten people's worldviews unless those worldviews oppose prejudice, in which case mortality salience can increase acceptance of people who are otherwise threatening. Consistent with these hypotheses, conservative participants had less favorable impressions (Study 2) and liberal participants had more favorable impressions (Study 3) of a target with AIDS following a death reminder. Study 4 suggested that the decrease in prejudice among liberals following mortality salience was a genuine decrease in prejudice (as indicated by responses to an unobtrusive attitude measure), not just an increase in the desire to appear nonprejudiced. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-327
Number of pages13
Journalbasic and applied social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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