"Smoking Can’T Hurt Me!!" and Other Death-Related Thoughts: a Test of Terror Management Theory

Consumer behavior researchers and public policy makers continue to be plagued with the problem of creating communication that can increase the probability of complying with important risk information both in the short run and in the long run. In this research, we investigate the impact of thematic approaches and self-esteem on whether college-age smokers will comply with anti-smoking messages in the short run and in the long run. Terror management theory (TMT) predicts that when an individual’s fear or anxiety associated with death is triggered by making their mortality salient, the process of reducing that anxiety results in either one’s selfesteem or cultural worldview rising to protect them from this extreme terror (Maheshwaran & Agrawal 2004; Arndt, et al. 2004; Jonas, et al. 2003). Generally, people are motivated to maintain high levels of self-esteem and defend their cultural worldview when it comes under threat in an effort to sustain one’s psychological wellbeing. In this research, we test the concept of making mortality salient for college-age smokers through the thematic approach of health risk anti-smoking messages. This is based on research conducted by Pechmann, et al. (2003) on the differential impact of various thematic approaches to communicating risk. In their research, they demonstrated that several types of thematic approaches including health risk messages actually increased high school students’ intent to smoke. In contrast, they found that certain types of thematic approaches including social risk messages were more effective at decreasing one’s intent to smoke. Three hypotheses were tested to determine if different thematic approaches as well as the interaction between thematic approaches and self-esteem have an impact on behavioral change in smoking both in the short run and in the long run.


Ingrid M. Martin (2006) ,""Smoking Can’T Hurt Me!!" and Other Death-Related Thoughts: a Test of Terror Management Theory", in LA - Latin American Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Silvia Gonzalez and David Luna, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 186-186.


Ingrid M. Martin, California State University–Long Beach, USA


LA - Latin American Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 2006

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