Communication and Terrorism: A Terror Management Theory Perspective

Claude H. Miller, Mark J. Landau
2005 Communication Research Reports  
As terrorism continues to raise the specter of death to levels of salience best measured on a global scale, terror management theory (TMT) offers valuable insights for communication theorists regarding the nature and psychology of terrorism. TMT provides a metatheoretic framework, which can help to unify a diverse range of communication theory perspectives. Following a review of TMT's analysis of certain socioemotional factors associated with the human potential for existential anxiety and
more » ... cultural conflict, this paper examines how TMT relates to and illuminates diverse communication theory orientations bearing on a range of issues related to the causes and costs of terrorism. Communication theory can offer important insights into many of the critical aspects of terrorism by helping us comprehend some of the proximal (i.e., close, specific, and direct) mechanisms involved in how people think about, feel about, and respond to terrorism. In this paper we will show how an empirically substantiated existential perspective known as terror management theory (TMT) can complement this understanding by providing a metatheoretic account of the distal (i.e., latent, indirect) motivational systems underlying key psychological structures central to the causes and consequences of terrorism. Specifically, we will attempt to show how TMT sheds light on the human need for culturally derived meaning and self-esteem (see Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997 for a review), and can thereby provide communication theorists with valuable insights into the socioemotional environment within which terrorism operates.
doi:10.1080/0882409052000343543 fatcat:krddoyk45zgafh4byo4dkfwzii