Friday, May 17, 2019

Mortality salience effects (death reminders lead to ingroup-bias and defensive protection of one’s worldview) have been claimed to be a fundamental human motivator; the authors couldn't replicate MS

Sætrevik, Bjørn, and Hallgeir Sjåstad. 2019. “A Pre-registered Attempt to Replicate the Mortality Salience Effect in Traditional and Novel Measures.” PsyArXiv. May 17. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Mortality salience (MS) effects, in which death reminders lead to ingroup-bias and defensive protection of one’s worldview, have been claimed to be a fundamental human motivator and to be supported in a number of studies. However, empirical support draws mainly from a single task in a single cultural setting, where research robustness and transparency are difficult to evaluate. We wanted to replicate the MS effect in an additional cultural setting (Norway), using both a traditional essay measure of patriotism, a novel measure of a culturally relevant essay about democratic values in the aftermath of a terror attack, and a novel measure of pro-social behaviour. We also included checks of whether the MS manipulation had effects on Stroop processing and psychophysiology. Despite our best efforts, the study failed to replicate the MS effect, both as direct and the conceptual replication. The results on the pro-social measure provided suggestive evidence for increased generosity to non-family members and charity. Surprisingly, we failed to find a significant MS effect on processing speed of social or death related words and on psychophysiological responses. Despite being a relatively small study (n = 100), it indicates that the large MS effect reported in the published literature may be more difficult to reproduce than previously assumed, that it does not transfer easily to other domains, and that if it exist, it might not have a straightforward cognitive mechanism. In future research, the combination of high-powered and pre-registered experiments is needed to detect or reject the MS effect with greater certainty.

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