Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2021

Thesis Director

Mariana M. Juras

Thesis Committee Member

Jeffrey R. Stowell

Thesis Committee Member

Jerry Zhu


Terror management theory (TMT), proposed by Greenberg, Pyszcynski, and Solomon (1986), suggests that humans cope with terror resulting from the knowledge of their own mortality. The need for coping mechanisms arises when individuals are reminded of their own inevitable death; that is, when they experience mortality salience (MS). Hirschberger, Florian, and Mikulincer (2002) found that when primed with death reminders, heterosexual individuals tend to compromise their ideal mate selection to form close relationships. There has also been extensive research on the differences between homosexual and heterosexual mating preferences. This study examined the effect mortality salience has on an individuals’ mate selection standards, and if there is a difference based on individual’s sexuality. Data from 332 participants did not yield significant differences in compromising mate selection standards between the MS primed and control groups. Differences in willingness to compromise mate selection standards was found in varying sexualities, suggesting a need to further investigate sexuality differences in willingness to compromise.