I’d Rather Die Than Be with You: The Effects of Mortality Salience and Negative Social Identity on Identification with a Virtual Group

  • Lena Frischlich
  • Diana Rieger
  • Olivia Rutkowski
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8531)


Research inspired by terror management theory has demonstrated that mortality salience (MS) triggers defense of one’s self-esteem and cultural worldview, for instance in terms of in-group identification. A necessary pre-condition is that this in-group contributes to a positive self-evaluation by being successful in relevant social comparisons. Unsuccessful in-groups pose an identity-threat and trigger dis-identification. Nowadays, virtual worlds and avatars offer new pathways to in-group identification and self-enhancement, raising the question which virtual groups and self-representations serve terror-management needs. The current study examined this question in a life simulation game. Participants either wrote about their death or a control topic before they were confronted with an identity-buffering (successful) versus identity-threatening (unsuccessful) virtual in-group, manipulated via ethnicity. Subsequently, preference for in-group avatars and identification with the virtual group were assessed. The results confirmed an increased identification after MS only when one’s identity was buffered. Results are discussed with regard to their implications.


terror management theory Negative Social Identity Avatar Selection Virtual Group-identification Simulation Games 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lena Frischlich
    • 1
  • Diana Rieger
    • 1
  • Olivia Rutkowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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