The implications of terror management theory (TMT) for understanding both how people react to terrorist attacks and what motivates people to support terrorist violence and extreme military solutions to the problem of terrorism are discussed. TMT is a general theory of human motivation, behavior, and culture that posits that people are strongly motivated to maintain faith in their cultural worldviews and high levels of self-esteem because of the role these psychological structures play in protecting them from deeply rooted fears of death and vulnerability that are inherent in the human condition. Research investigating the effect of subtle reminders of death on support for martyrdom activities, extreme military interventions, political leaders that emphasize the superiority of the ingroup, and the restriction of civil liberties is reviewed, followed by a consideration of implications of the theory for reducing the ongoing conflict that breeds both terrorist violence and extreme military interventions. Emphasis is placed on the common psychological forces that promote escalation of hostilities on all sides of the current conflict.
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