Scared to Death: Hospital Images Evoke Mortality Salience

Amber Lisman, Kelli Gaus, Dr. Lydia Eckstein, Department of Psychology, Allegheny College 520 N Main St Meadville PA 16335

In line with predictions made by Terror Management Theory (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986), previous research has found that when individuals were reminded of their mortality, there was an increase in prejudice towards people perceived as outsiders and an increase in their attraction to those with similar beliefs (Greenberg et. al 1990). Research has also shown that prejudice in hospital settings has caused for a large discrepancy between the care that white and non-white patients receive (Dovidio et. al, 2008; Penner et. al, 2010).

The goal of the present study is to investigate if mere exposure to hospital settings can increase displays of prejudice, as TMT would predict. We hypothesize that hospital images will induce mortality salience (as measured by the number of death-related words in a word-completion task) in comparison to images of restaurants, leading to increased scores on ageism and racism prejudice scales. 

Mechanical Turk (MTurk) participants will be randomly assigned to view a slideshow of 10 images of hospital hallways, rooms, and beds or 10 images of restaurants, cafes, and diners. After completing the slideshow of images, all participants will be given a word completion task (Arndt et. al., 1997), to check for the accessibility of death-related words as a measure of mortality salience. Finally, participants will be asked to respond to survey questions (Fraboni et al. 2010; Henry & Sears 2002), assessing prejudicial attitudes related to age and race.

Because viewing images of hospitals can invoke reminders and thoughts of death and fear in people, it is possible that prejudicial responses may be heightened in healthcare settings. If true, there are implications for the quality of care received by those who are victims of ageism and racism. This is especially significant now amidst a pandemic, when there is heightened fear associated with hospital settings.  


Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Kelli Gaus, Amber Lisman

Institution: Allegheny College

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 10
Date/Time: Wed 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 6650