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date: 25 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Prosocial behavior poses a dilemma: Responding to a cry for help may compromise self-interest. Acting callously, however, may lead to social disproval. These antagonistic responses are existentially meaningful as belongingness and self-esteem have been found to regulate death anxiety. The author critically examines three possible hypotheses concerning the tension between egotism and prosociality from a terror management perspective. The first hypothesis, the carpe diem hypothesis, suggests that when death is salient, egotistic self-interest overrides other-oriented responses. The second hypothesis, the norm salience hypothesis, suggests that when death is salient, people will respond according to the momentarily accessible social norm. The third hypothesis, the self-protective altruism hypothesis, argues that when the prosocial cause reminds people of their fragile, mortal nature, people will turn away from helping when death is salient, but when the prosocial cause is benign, death salience will increase prosocial behavior.

Keywords: self-interest, egotism, belongingness, terror management, self-protective motivation

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