Date of Conferral







Brent Robbins


Research on existential mortality fears has indicated that death reminders impact individuals at the cognitive and behavioral levels. One way people cope with this threat is through cherishing cultural values that provide life with meaning. However, little research has explored how death reminders impact cultural standards regarding gender. These cultural values often manifest through various means by male and female groups. Guided by terror management theory, which posits that people address threats to their existence by engaging in culturally-sanctioned behaviors to enhance their self-esteem, the purpose of this study was to examine the effect of mortality salience (MS) on male participants' propensity for sexism and attitudes towards those with atypical gender stereotypes. Participants (n = 136) were recruited from courses at a local university and were selected based on the assumption that they had been exposed to media depicting death-related events. A quantitative research design was used to examine differences between the experimental MS and control pain salience conditions, and to assess effect sizes. Results from a MANOVA indicated that MS was associated with significantly higher sexism scores (F = 15.322, p < .001) as measured by the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, and with less favorable ratings of peers (as measured by a common opinion rating scale used in previous research in this area) who violated traditional gender stereotypes (F = 13.459, p < .001). The findings imply existential threats may contribute to negative stereotyping based on gender and enhance conservative views of gender stereotypes. Implications for social change are discussed involving the reduction of intolerance and prejudice directed at those who hold opposing worldviews.