Social Justice Research

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 117–139 | Cite as

Terrorism Salience increases System Justification: Experimental Evidence



The issue of international terrorism has figured frequently in recent political debates and media coverage. In the present paper, we explore the question of how the salience of the concept of international terrorism affects the system-justifying tendencies of public opinion. On the basis of Terror Management Theory and System Justification Theory it was hypothesized that terrorism salience would lead to increased system justification. Four experiments with student and non-student adult samples support the hypothesis, yielding a medium-sized average effect of d = 0.47. Across variations in the intensity of focal death-related thoughts, the effect was not subject to boundary conditions typical of mortality salience effects. Social and political psychological implications are discussed.


terrorism system justification terror management ideology 



This research was conducted while the first author was a PhD student at the Graduiertenkolleg [Research Training Group] “Group Focused Enmity” supported by the DFG (GRK 884/1–04). We are thankful to Oliver Christ, Edward Dunlap, Immo Fritsche, John T. Jost, Jost Stellmacher, Ulrich Wagner, and our anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on previous versions of this paper. Thanks are extended to Eva Jonas for providing us with a template of a measure of death-thought accessibility, and to Manuel Drews, Mareike Glockmann, Pamela Holtus, Annika M. Kohl and Kristina B. Rohde for their help with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyJ.W. Goethe UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  2. 2.Friedrich Schiller UniversityJenaGermany

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