Implicit aggression following exposure to people with physical disabilities: The costs of inhibiting self-protective processes

  • Dahlia Talmor
  • Gilad HirschbergerEmail author
  • Stephanie Seeman
  • Tsachi Ein-Dor
  • Mario Mikulincer
Original Paper


Previous studies indicate that death reminders elicit prosocial behavior, but also an urge to distance from physical disabilities. Here, we examine whether mortality salience will increase implicit aggression when one is explicitly requested to help a person with physical disability. This implicit negative response may address the need for self-protection when no other means are available. Participants were randomly assigned to a mortality salience or pain condition, were exposed to a veteran with a physical or emotional disability, and were requested or not to help him. Then, they performed a lexical decision task tapping accessibility of aggression-related cognitions. Mortality-salience participants who were exposed to a veteran with physical disability and were compelled to help showed higher accessibility of aggression-related thoughts than participants in other conditions. Findings support the Self-Protective Altruism hypothesis (Hirschberger in Soc Pers Psychol Compass 7:128–140, 2013), implying that sometimes prosocial behavior can involve implicit antisocial thoughts.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The research reported here is in full compliance with APA ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all participants, and this research was approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Supplementary material

11031_2019_9757_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) HerzliyaHerzliyaIsrael

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