13 Worldview Threat Across Subject Areas

Cathryn van Kessel; Francesca Catena; Kim Edmondson; Nick Jacobs; and Kara Boucher


Worldview threat from mathematical principles that violate our day-to-day sense of reality

e.g., probability: even if you flip a coin 25 times and every one is “tails”, the odds are still 50/50 that you will gets “heads” next time (aka “the Gambler’s Fallacy“)


In English as a Second Language (or English Language Learning) classrooms, you might encounter:

  • worldview differences in vocabulary

  • binary structures in language (e.g., feminine/masculine)

  • plus, a very high chance of cultural diversity in those classes

Physical Education and Wellness

Worldview threat can help explain politics in sport, such as the backlash to NFL players like Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem, or Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ Black Power salute during their Olympic medal ceremony on October 16, 1968)

TMT also helps us understand sports fandom! Why is it that we rally behind “our” team and dislike the opposing one? Check out this article on how Sports Hooliganism Comes Down to a Fear of Death.

Worldview threat partially explains why we have trouble evaluating claims to knowledge about nutrition and health. Our reading comprehension is reduced when we worldview disconfirming information (and increases when we read what affirms our worldview)!

Furthermore, terror management theory as a whole explains some approaches to physical education and wellness, as we strive to overcome our physical limitations and make our bodies resistant to decay and death.We might take unecessary and dangerous risks, but there can be positive effects as well (e.g., increased performance in sports).

Science, Art, and Music

Worldview threat can help us understand the difficulty of changing paradigms (see: Thomas Kuhn)—why there is so much resistance to new approaches and understandings:

  • Sciences: the excommunication of Galileo; resistance to the idea of continental drift/plate tectonics; climate change denial

  • Music: resistance to the invention of classical music from the paradigm of Baroque

  • Art: Renaissance art was a shifting paradigm (What’s art for for? Who can make art?)

History or Social Studies: Canadian Internment Camps Lesson

Internment camps lesson

How might students identify injustices and build empathy regarding internment in Canadian history?


The aim of this lesson is to build an understanding from two basic perspectives:

  • Members of the Canadian government and broader society: Why they were afraid of so-called enemy aliens (e.g., fetishizing evil, worldview threat)
  • Those who had been interned: Engaging with their stories to foster empathy

(FYI: At the time of writing, this was part of the Grade 11 social studies curriculum in Alberta)



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The Grim Educator Copyright © 2019 by Cathryn van Kessel; Francesca Catena; Kim Edmondson; Nick Jacobs; and Kara Boucher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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