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Lecture 8

PSY336H1F Lecture 8 June 10


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSY336H1
Professor
Dan Dolderman
Lecture
8

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PSY336H1F L8 June 10, 2014
Meaning
“We cannot let the terrorists achieve their objective of frightening our
nation to the point where we don’t conduct business, where people
don’t shop… Mrs. Bush and I want to encourage Americans to go
shopping.”
-G. Bush
Voting in 2 days
Voting is an expression of power & overall belief in the system
oNot voting shows apathy & cynicism
oPpl mainly hold back by a belief that it doesn’t make a
difference
oSense that the system is unresponsive to the will of the ppl
- corruption
First past the post: you can have a leader that most ppl didn’t vote
for
oMajority vs. Minority Democracy = Autocracy vs.
Coalitions
oOnly 6000 votes stopping a Majority government in the
last election
Quite high likelihood that a grp of ppl can shift
power
As you go down scales, the proportional power of
your vote is more
Papers
You can write in 1st person
Structuring your paper is up to you
oYou can use headings
Don’t have to use essay format
oEx. Topic 1 on habit change: can make a pamphlets,
workshop manual, handbook
oStill need literature connections
oEx. getting to first order values using Ryan & Deci  the
reason for this step is…
You should be able to fully explore your paper in 4 pages, but give
yourself the space you need within reason (ex. 3-5 pages)
Can you charts
Flexible but w limits
You can definitely use the course material!
Can cite the lectures!
oEx. Dolderman said in class…
1: no idea; 2: kinda, 3: totally
Do you know what the meaning of life is?
olow mean ~2
omore abstract Q, universal, philosophic – hard to bring
down to scale of everyday life
Do you know what brings in sense of meaning into your life?
oHigh mean ~2.5
oMore concrete Q, about yourself
Paul Tollock – Christian Theologian
“The courage to be”
Talking about dif types of anxieties that ppl experience
oFear-based response, worry
Pathological anxiety
oHeine: Meaning Maintenance Model
Existential anxiety
oHeavy
oWanting to find a ground for value, morals
oThink about eternity, death, grand things
oMost of us have a difficult time w this to the extent we
think about this
oEx. Prof learns: The sun will blow up someday – Wha? 
feeling that nothing meant anything
thought about pyramids & motorcycle daredevils
(role models) – thought none of these things matters
mind crumbled
oTillock: “We bounce off existential anxiety to a higher
realm of pathological anxiety”
Go from the abyss to the surface to worry about
other things (ex. attractiveness, gossip)
Highly consistent w psychology & study of
meaning
Baumeister: meaning, psychological speaking, is the imposition
of a stable conception onto an ever-changing biological process
oEver-changing biological process = Me, life
Inherently ephemeral
Abstract cognitive faculties can think into the future
– (sun will blow up)  existential anxiety
so Inherently problematic
Religious faith: historical difficulties w theory of
evolution ~ Jonathan Haid’s theory of disgust
Having a soul – comforting
Trauma, near-death experiences, Profs
family has history of brain tumours, funerals
– ppl like to say they went to a better place,
comforting
Uncomfortable funeral of Profs great uncle:
evangelical atheist – couldn’t say he went to
a never place
flee from these Qs to impose stable conceptions
onto the ever-changing biological process
We don’t like the ever-changing biological process
oStable conception imposed
More stable than the biological process
Conceptual framework
Ex. lead a legacy – forgotten about your death,
focussing on your legacy – problem of death still
their
You can the idea of something eternal (G-d) can
help you make sense of the ever-changing
biological process
when the abyss comes along, we have a
bigger concept so we’re okay
This is often called the age of meaningless, anxiety
Vervaeke: lack of meaning
Semi-decline of religion
Literate population – post-modern problem of multi-perspective
oWhich perspective is right?
oImpossible to say?
Truth bounded in underlying assumptions
Post-modern world : struggling to make sense of reality when all
meaning systems bumping into each other
oUnsettling
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oPrior to the exposure of this knowledge, you could easily
believe the beliefs of your ancestors
oNow Qs arrise
What do we do?
Realm of pathological anxiety is filled w meaning structures
Meaning Maintenance Model (Heine)
oSelf-esteem
oCertainty (control)
Before MMM this there was a Terror Management Theory
oHard time gaining traction
oQuestioning what self-esteem is all about
o“Why do ppl need self-esteem?”
Ppl highly motivated to sustain high level of self-
esteem
Many things rooted in human need to see ourselves
as valuable
Assumed it was a first order value
oThe Western Individualistic “Private Self” is not a
cultural nor historical universal
Why did we create this?
self-esteem is a protective shield, defense
mechanism, designed to control the potential of
terror from the realization humans are animals
destined to die
Ppl don’t like to think about this
create self-esteem
forget self-esteem is created
Sense of continuity – self-esteem is a stable
imposition constructed of:
Beliefs
Likes, dislikes
Values
Grp affiliations, identities
Self-concept:
Most ppl experience the self as a lived reality
The self is more like an idea you hold
firmly to – it’s your final defense against
the abyss
oMortality Salience Inductions:
Stare death in the face
Ex. walk past a cemetery, write an essay about body
decomposition
Contemplate death
Mortality Salience Inductions leads to a greater
adherence to or emphasis on personal values
Value scale takes away sting of death
Jocks will squeeze hand-grip stronger
(physical strength is a key value)
You go in the direction of your values
Americans  more individualistic
Japanese  more collectivistic
After thinking about death, you reaffirm yourself by
adhering more strongly to your values
Ex. the lexus car becomes even better to you
o9/11: symbolic, thousands of Americans died on home soil;
Profs hypotheses of responses:
a) We are vulnerable; terrorism comes from
somewhere; outpouring of sympathy for Americans;
change political policy to open-arms collaboration-
building way; help women’s rights & poverty
b) Shore of defenses, reassure citizens, money into
military budget, wars
Chosen by President Bush
Smart to tell ppl to shop
Economically smart – the American
symbolic of capitalist enterprise was
attacked, could cause dip in economy – rests
on consumer base
Sends signal to investors that America stays
storng
Psychological: Our values are okay! Run
away from Existential anxiety to
Pathological Anxiety
Replication of TMT studies:
oIan McGregor
Manipulating uncertainty
Not mortality salience inductions
Gave ppl stmuli that didn’t make sense (ex.
unsolvable puzzles)
When ppl feel uncertain, do same things as when
have mortality salience induction
So it doesn’t have to do w death
oAaron Kaye
Threatening ppl’s self-esteem
Biased intelligence tests false feedback
Dumb or rly smart
After ppl’s self-concept has taken a beating, shift
their attitudes to:
desire greater simplicity
show political attitudes change (more
conservative direction)
desire strong leadership
stronger belief in G-d (if given scales on
religion)
threatens ppl’s sense of meaning
they want predictability to the universe
they make sense, their relationships make
sense
assure themselves up psychologically –
Fluid Compensation
oAttached to many meaning
frameworks
oShift themselves to a dif meaning
framework to affirm themselves
Can show Fluid Compensation in lab go to
whatever system you give them – most readily
available
If give nthing go to dispositional values
It means ppl don’t deal w threats to their
meaning systems
oPiaget assumes we would assimilate
or accommodate our framework
oWe’ll only accommodate if we have
to so we’ll do everything to avod it 
slap on “meaning bandaid”
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