Using an online experiment design on Americans, this study investigates how terrorist attack death cues affect individual-level attitude polarization regarding undocumented immigrants via distinct negative emotions (i.e., anxiety, anger, and sadness) and information avoidance. First, we find that exposure to terrorist attack death cues increases anxiety, anger, and sadness. Of these negative emotions, anxiety increases information avoidance, and such information avoidance reduces attitude polarization. We revisit the traditional affect-free claim of terror management theory (TMT) and connect the theory with discrete negative emotions and information avoidance to better understand the underlying mechanisms of attitude polarization in threatening situations. Our findings suggest that the role information avoidance plays in managing death anxiety in response to threats will require more systematic examination, as information avoidance can counterbalance tendencies toward selective exposure when experiencing threats that evoke death anxiety.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2021 Western Social Science Association.
- Terror management theory
- death anxiety
- information avoidance