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Terror in time: extending culturomics to address basic terror management mechanisms


Terror in time: extending culturomics to address basic terror management mechanisms



Cognition and Emotion 33(3): 492-511



ISSN/ISBN: 0269-9931

PMID: 29637804

DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2018.1460322

Building on Google's efforts to scan millions of books, this article introduces methodology using a database of annual word frequencies of the 40,000 most frequently occurring words in the American literature between 1800 and 2009. The current paper uses this methodology to replicate and identify terror management processes in historical context. Variation in frequencies of word usage of constructs relevant to terror management theory (e.g. death, worldview, self-esteem, relationships) are investigated over a time period of 209 years. Study 1 corroborated previous TMT findings and demonstrated that word use of constructs related to death and of constructs related to patriotism and romantic relationships significantly co-vary over time. Study 2 showed that the use of the word "death" most strongly co-varies over time with the use of medical constructs, but also co-varies with the use of constructs related to violence, relationships, religion, positive sentiment, and negative sentiment. Study 3 found that a change in the use of death related words is associated with an increase in the use of fear related words, but not in anxiety related words. Results indicate that the described methodology generates valuable insights regarding terror management theory and provide new perspectives for theoretical advances.

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Accession: 065563706

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