Unconscious Vigilance: Worldview Defense without Adaptations for Terror, Coalition or Uncertainty Management

Colin Holbrook, Paulo Sousa, Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals subtly reminded of death, coalitional challenges, or feelings of uncertainty display exaggerated preferences for affirmations and against criticisms of their cultural in-groups. Terror management, coalitional psychology, and uncertainty management theories postulate this “worldview defense” effectas the output of mechanisms evolved either to allay the fear of death, foster social support, or reduce anxiety by increasing adherence to cultural values. In 4 studies, we report evidence for an alternative perspective. We argue that worldview defense owes to unconscious vigilance, a state of accentuatedreactivity to affective targets (which need not relate to cultural worldviews) that follows detection of subtle alarm cues (which need not pertain to death, coalitional challenges, or uncertainty). In Studies 1 and 2, death-primed participants produced exaggerated ratings of worldview-neutral affective targets. In Studies 3 and 4, subliminal threat manipulations unrelated to death, coalitional challenges, or uncertaintyevoked worldview defense. These results are discussed as they inform evolutionary interpretations of worldview defense and future investigations of the influence of unconscious alarm on judgment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-466
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Unconscious Vigilance: Worldview Defense without Adaptations for Terror, Coalition or Uncertainty Management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this