The Impact of Mortality Salience on Religion and Spiritual Beliefs in College Students

Rachel Davis


Previous research has clearly demonstrated the human motivation to buffer anxiety concerning death through investing in cultural belief systems. Individuals who have adopted a “socially dominant” view may be more invested in believing in good and evil, as this would in part justify their desire to be near the top social strata. This tendency may be even stronger among participants who also hold strong religious beliefs. The purpose of our research is to examine the effect of mortality salience on an individual’s beliefs in the existence of an evil entity as a function of their social dominance orientation and religious beliefs. We hypothesized that when individuals high in both social dominance orientation and religious beliefs are exposed to mortality salience, they would report stronger beliefs in the existence of an evil entity compared to control subjects. A volunteer sample of approximately 100 college students will complete the Social Dominance Orientation Scale,2 the Religious Attitudes Survey,3, 18 the Just World Scale,25 the Projective Life Attitudes Assessment,7 the Morningness and Eveningness Scale,11 and an experimenter created scale to assess the extent of belief in an evil entity. The primary analysis was a three-way ANOVA. The implications and practical applications of these results for college students and society will be discussed.


Religion; Mortality Salience; Terror Management

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