Making a Murderer: Conceptualizing the Effects of Mortality Salience on Criminogenic Thinking Patterns


  • Morgan Rutkowski Fort Lewis College


Terror Management Theory, criminogenic thinking, mortality salience


Terror Management Theory (TMT) proposes that humans seek preservation because we are aware of our vulnerabilities associated with death, creating an immense amount of fear and anxiety. As a result, humans invest in both symbolic and literal immortality—via activities that provide us with a sense of safety and reassurance to counter our inevitable demise. However, there has been little research on TMT in the realm of criminal justice. More specifically, TMT continues to be an unpracticed idea when examining the origins of an offender’s criminogenic thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, this project conceptualizes the effects of mortality salience (death reminders) on a person’s willingness to allow more criminogenic thought patterns. These cognitive contemplations were assessed by using a modified version of the Measure of Criminogenic Thinking Styles (MOCTS), originally a 70-item self-report measure created to calculate someone’s thinking that could perpetuate criminal behavior.


Faculty Mentor: Brian L. Burke 






Social Sciences