Our conscious and unconscious thoughts about death and evil shape how we interact with others and shape our world.
By engaging with the ideas of Ernest Becker and theorists such as Hannah Arendt, as well as borrowing from Terror Management Theory in social psychology, we hope to provoke thinking about how our conscious and unconscious approaches to evil and death impact education (and our lives).
Using the contents tab to the left, discover descriptions, resources, and lessons for classroom use and beyond!
This research has been supported by:
- The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada
- The Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta
- The Department of Secondary Education at the University of Alberta
- The University of Alberta Libraries
Was a cultural anthropologist whose Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death (1973), inspired the development of terror management theory within the field of social psychology. He is known for his claim that much of human culture and behavior is directed toward denying the fact of our mortal fate.
Is a subfield of social psychology that is derived from existentialism and the works of Ernest Becker. TMT posits that our awareness of death conflicts with our evolved desire to live and that this creates the potential for debilitating existential anxiety (i.e., “terror”). Furthermore, it proposes that humans have attempted to psychologically resolve the problem of death by inventing and sustaining self-esteem-yielding cultural worldviews that help to manage this anxiety. These cultural systems enable people to curtail death related anxiety by providing hope for immortality. According to TMT, immortality can be literal, such as a belief in an afterlife (e.g., heaven). However, we can also attain symbolic immortality through a cultural system (e.g., one’s country) which allows its adherents to construe themselves as valuable members whose memory and contributions will persist posthumously through the permanency of that culture or the objects that it fosters.