Failed pre-registered replication of mortality salience effects in traditional and novel measures

By Vilde Blomhoff Pedersen

29 October 2019 14:03

Failed pre-registered replication of mortality salience effects in traditional and novel measures

New working paper by Bjørn Sætrevik (UiB) and Hallgeir Sjåstad (FAIR Insight Team): “Failed pre-registered replication of mortality salience effects in traditional and novel measures.”

ABSTRACT

It has been claimed that mortality salience (MS) effects, in which death reminders lead to ingroup-bias and defensive protection of one’s worldview, is a fundamental human motivator. MS effects have been supported by more than 400 studies, but those mainly use the same experimental task and cultural setting, and pre-registered high-powered replications are lacking. Experiment 1 (101 Norwegian participants) aimed to replicate the MS effect in a pre-registered laboratory experiment, using a traditional essay measure of national patriotism, a novel measure of culturally dominant democratic values, and a novel measure of pro-sociality. We also included checks of whether MS had effects on Stroop processing and psychophysiology. Experiment 2 (783 US participants) aimed to replicate the MS effect on national patriotism in a pre-registered and high-powered online experiment, with ingroup identification and pro-sociality as additional outcome measures. The primary result was that neither experiment replicated the traditional MS effect on national patriotism. Experiment 1 also failed to show MS effects on the novel measures of processing speed of social or death related words, on psychophysiological responses, and to conceptually replicate the effect for a different cultural value. Experiment 2 failed to show an MS effect on ingroup identification, but found a small effect of MS decreasing pro-sociality, which is in the opposite direction of theoretical predictions and previous findings. This indicates that the traditional MS effect is less robust and generalizable than previously assumed, and is difficult to trace to the mechanisms proposed by the prevailing “terror management theory” framework.

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