Term of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Michael Nielsen

Committee Member 1

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 2

Ty Boyer

Abstract

The United States’ counterterrorism efforts have been framed in various ways in the media and politics, and each framing metaphor varies in its ability to accurately describe counterterrorism (Kruglanski, Crenshaw, Post, & Victoroff, 2007). Each frame also may have effects on the way the public perceives, responds to, and finds acceptable in counterterrorism. One common framing metaphor in American politics is counterterrorism as a “War on Terror.” Terror Management Theory (TMT) predicts that reminding people of mortality has predictable effects on their opinions and behavior. This study seeks to test empirically whether framing counterterrorism as a “War on Terror” acts as a mortality salience prime, and causes participants to be more likely to support freedom-restricting policies, including policies that target Arabs and Muslims. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombings occurred in the middle of data collection, allowing us to see whether this terrorist event strengthened mortality salience effects. A sample of 120 undergraduates was surveyed. Results were inconsistent with our hypothesis, leading us to conclude that the “War on Terror” frame did not act as a mortality salience prime in this sample. However, it was found that using the “War on Terror” and law enforcement counterterrorism metaphors significantly decreased participants’ support for freedom-restricting policies.

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