You are invited to attend an upcoming EMS Dissertation Defense with PhD candidate, Sarah Parker Ward. Sarah will be defending her dissertation, “Death & Policy: Toward an Understanding of Motivational Reactivity as a Predictor of Partisanship in Response to Mortality Salient Media.” Sarah will present for approximately 25 minutes, followed by 45 minutes of questions from her dissertation committee. Please note, the audience are not permitted to ask questions at the defense.
As biomedical advancements continue to improve, the line between life and death continues to blur. At the same time, the American populace is challenged by a variety of competing cultural values in respect to end-of-life rights and post-mortem care, the result of which is often heated debate within an already polarized political arena. These realities make the prospect of satisfactory advancement of end-of-life care reform worrisome. The present study sought to find a constructive pathway forward by exploring the psychological framework for mortality salient processing posited by terror management theory as it relates to subsequent affective polarization. In working to bolster this theory’s predictive power by incorporating individual-level cognitive traits, namely motivational reactivity and self-compassion, in conditional process models, the author also aimed to gain a better understanding for the individual-level conditions that support political cohesion in the face of death awareness. Though findings did not achieve statistical significance, they signal an important role of innate traits as predictors of mortality salience processing while also calling for additional studies that reliably account for lifestyle influences.