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Psicothema was founded in Asturias (northern Spain) in 1989, and is published jointly by the Psychology Faculty of the University of Oviedo and the Psychological Association of the Principality of Asturias (Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos del Principado de Asturias).
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Polarization of Attitudes as a Function of Mortality Salience: A Meta-Cognitive Analysis

Javier Horcajo1, Pablo Briñol1, Borja Paredes1, Richard E. Petty2, Kenneth G. DeMarree3, and Ya Hui Michelle See4

1 Universidad Autónoma de Madrid,
2 Ohio State University,
3 University at Buffalo, SUNY, and
4 National University of Singapore

Background: The present study analyzes how attitudes can polarize after reminders of death in the context of persuasion, and proposes that a meta-cognitive process (i.e., self-validation) can serve as a compensatory coping mechanism to deal with mortality salience. Method: Participants were first asked to read either a strong or a weak resume of a job applicant. Next, they listed their initial thoughts about that applicant. Then, they were asked to think about of their own death (i.e., mortality salience condition) versus being asked to think about of being cold (i.e., control condition). Finally, participants reported the confidence in their thoughts, as well as their attitudes towards the applicant. Results: Participants who were assigned to the mortality salience (vs. control) condition showed greater impact of their previously generated thoughts on their subsequent attitudes. Additionally, as hypothesized, this effect of attitude polarization was mediated by changes in thought confidence. Conclusions: Attitudes unrelated to mortality can be polarized by reminders of death and this effect can operate through a meta-cognitive process of thought validation. Implications for persuasion, self-validation, and beyond are discussed.

Polarización de las Actitudes Como Resultado de Hacer Saliente la Mortalidad: un Análisis Meta-Cognitivo. Antecedentes: la presente investigación analiza cómo las actitudes se polarizan como resultado de hacer saliente la mortalidad en el contexto de la persuasión y propone que un proceso meta-cognitivo (i.e., la auto-validación) puede servir como un mecanismo compensatorio de afrontamiento ante la idea de la muerte. Método: los participantes fueron asignados aleatoriamente a leer un currículum que incluía información muy convincente o información poco convincente sobre un candidato a un puesto de trabajo. A continuación, escribieron los pensamientos que tuvieron sobre el candidato. Después, realizaron una tarea que implicó pensar en la idea de su propia muerte (i.e., condición de mortalidad) o pensar en la idea de tener frío (i.e., condición de control). Finalmente, los participantes informaron de la confianza que tuvieron en sus pensamientos, así como de las actitudes que se formaron hacia el candidato. Resultados: los participantes de la condición de mortalidad (vs. control) mostraron un mayor impacto de sus pensamientos iniciales sobre sus actitudes. Además, este efecto de polarización fue mediado por la confianza en los pensamientos. Conclusiones: las actitudes no relacionadas con la mortalidad pueden polarizarse al hacer saliente la mortalidad y este efecto puede ocurrir a través de un proceso meta-cognitivo de validación del pensamiento.

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Impact factor 2021:   JCR (WOS): 4.104 (Q1)   |   SJR (Scopus) : 1.308 (Q1)    |  CiteScore 2020: 5,3