Abstract: Three studies tested predictions derived from terror management theory (TMT) about the effects of terrorism news on prejudice. Exposure to terrorism news should confront receivers with thoughts about their own death, which, in turn, should increase prejudice toward outgroup members. Non-Muslim (Studies 1–3) and Muslim (Study 3) participants were exposed to news about either Islamic terrorist acts or to control news. When Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by an Islamic extremist during data collection of Study 1, this event was included as a naturally occurring factor in the design. Consistent with TMT, terrorism news and Van Gogh’s murder increased death-related thoughts. Death-related thoughts, in turn, increased prejudiced attitudes toward outgroup members, especially when participants had low self-esteem, and when terrorism was psychologically close. Terrorism news may inadvertently increase prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups when it reminds viewers of their own mortality.
Keywords: Terrorism, terror management, death-related thoughts, prejudice, outgroup, Muslim