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Choosing to follow or going it alone: Influences and consequences
AuthorMcVean, Aaron D.
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Based on Terror Management Theory (TMT), Attachment Theory, and Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT), two studies were conducted in order to examine the relationship between choice and existential anxiety. The first study was designed to examine the impact of mortality salience (MS) on the decision to follow a leader or to go one’s own way. The qualifications of the leader and the attachment style of participants were expected to moderate the effects of MS. Contrary to predictions based on a cognitive resource perspective, the induction of MS led participants to choose to follow a qualified leader. Attachment style did not moderate these effects.The second study was designed to examine the consequences of choosing a leader who subsequently fails. Based on CDT and TMT, it was expected that participants who chose a leader who ultimately failed would experience greater death-thought accessibility (DTA) due to the impact on their self-esteem. Attachment style was also expected to moderate this effect. Results supported the hypothesis that greater DTA would result when a leader failed, but only when they were chosen by participants (as opposed to assigned). Unfortunately, attachment style again did not moderate these effects.