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Shamans deal with events that involve the threat of death. They help buffer death anxiety because, through their claimed supernatural abilities, they can provide both hope for averting death and evidence for existence of a spirit world offering continuance beyond death. Thus, managing the threat of mortality probably played a major role in the development and maintenance of shamanism.
Kalisch et al.'s PASTOR model synthesizes current knowledge of resilience, focusing on mechanisms as a common pathway to outcomes and highlighting neuroscience as a method for exploring this. We propose the model broaden its definition of resiliency to include positive indices of recovery, include positive affect as a mechanism, and approach motivation as distinct from overcoming aversive motivation.
Bering's analysis is inadequate because it fails to consider past and present adult soul beliefs and the psychological functions they serve. We suggest that a valid folk psychology of souls must consider features of adult soul beliefs, the unique problem engendered by awareness of death, and terror management findings, in addition to cognitive inclinations toward dualistic and teleological thinking.
Research on aggression and terror management theory suggests shortcomings in Nell's analysis of cruelty. Hostile aggression and exposure to aggressive cues are not inherently reinforcing, though they may be enjoyed if construed within a meaningful cultural framework. Terror management research suggests that human cruelty stems from the desire to defend one's cultural worldview and to participate in a heroic triumph over evil.
Terror management theory and research can rectify shortcomings in Atran & Norenzayan's (A&N's) analysis of religion. (1) Religious and secular worldviews are much more similar than the target article supposes; (2) a propensity for embracing supernatural beliefs is likely to have conferred an adaptive advantage over the course of evolution; and (3) the claim that supernatural agent beliefs serve a terror management function independent of worldview bolstering is not empirically supported.
The proposition that people are often unaware of the forces that lead them to do the things they do is one of the oldest, most widely accepted, but at times most controversial ideas in the history of psychology. Since psychology's inception, the popularity of accounts of behavior that emphasize unconscious motivational forces has waxed and waned. Although virtually all psychologists probably agree that people are typically not aware of all the forces and processes that determine their behavior, the idea that people's thoughts, feelings, and actions are driven by powerful fears and needs of which they are unaware is considerably more contentious. Building on earlier theorizing in existential philosophy and psychoanalytic psychology, Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991) posits that a very deeply rooted fear of death unique to our species motivates a great deal of human behavior. A substantial literature consisting of over 170 separate studies conducted in at least nine different countries has accumulated over the past 15 years, supporting a variety of hypotheses derived from TMT (for reviews, see Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997; Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003). This research demonstrates that thoughts of death affect a broad range of human behavior, but that these effects occur in the absence of consciously experienced affect and occur primarily when death-related thoughts are on the fringes of consciousness.
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