Disability salience as an indicator of loss anxiety: an alternative explanation for the fundamental fear of human beings

Atabey, Cemile Müjde
The aim of the present research was to investigate the issue of loss anxiety within the framework of disability and terror management theory. A questionnaire package was administered to 217 participants twice to examine the effects of mortality salience and disability salience. Besides mortality salience, paralysis salience was found to be effective. Highly conservative participants were becoming more conservative in the paralysis salience and mortality salience conditions. Content analysis was also conducted relating the participants’ accounts. It was concluded that death and disability were both inducing sadness for the participants. However, this sadness experience could have two different formats. The relation between experimental manipulations and global sadness accounts was not significant. However, the relationship between experimental manipulations and individual sadness accounts was significant. Participants in the mortality salience condition were experiencing less individual sadness than expected. In contrast, participants in the paralysis salience condition were experiencing more individual sadness than expected. It is concluded that death may not be the one and only fundamental fear as terror management theory suggests. Disability might be as fearful as death. A theoretical model is proposed for the alternative experimental manipulation in terror management theory studies. According to this conceptualization, an experimental manipulation could be successful if it satisfies the following three conditions: moderately fearful, highly imaginable/easily available and highly self-relevant. Any kind of loss which satisfies these conditions might result in cultural worldview defense. The threatening nature of disability might provide one more reason relating the importance of a disability-friendly environment.