Seize The Moment Podcast

Sheldon Solomon Discusses Death Anxiety’s Link To Racism And Nationalism

On episode 75 we welcome social psychologist and co-developer of Terror-Management Theory Sheldon Solomon.

Sheldon Solomon is a social psychologist, a philosopher, co-developer of Terror Management Theory, co-author of The Worm at the Core : On the Role of Death in Life.

Sheldon Solomon (David Rabkin/Museum of Science)

Founded in the work of psychologist Ernest Becker, Sheldon and his colleagues used the scientific method to explore the pervasive effects of our awareness and fear of death, from creating religion to our political and national identities, and how they can further divide us as much as unite us.

Self-esteem and our cultural beliefs help us manage the dreaded existential reality of death, and knowing that can help us explore alternative options to the pursuit of competition, fame, wealth, and glory, potentially contributing to us making healthier decisions.


Topics discussed with Sheldon Solomon

  • Sheldon’s original research, which supported his hypothesis of death anxiety being at the core of most of our aggressive and selfish behaviors
  • How awareness of our mortality tends to make us more tribal and nationalistic
  • The backlash he and his colleagues received from academia when they presented TMT and why they decided to continue to explore its merits
  • How individual self-esteem is used to help us repress our collective terror of dying
  • The link between death anxiety and the subsequent creation of cultural values and beliefs
  • How we can begin to tackle the problem of political polarization and the factors sustaining it

Also watch: Kate Harvie Talks Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury


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