Solomon presents terror theory at Ramsey lecture

Posted by Miles Mattison & Maximilian Ehrman

On Tuesday Feb. 15, the 12th annual Jon Ramsey Honors Forum Lecture was held in Gannett Auditorium.

Professor Sheldon Solomon from the Psychology Department gave a lecture on his vocation titled, "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness."

Gannett was at maximum capacity and a live video feed of Solomon's lecture was transmitted for viewers in Davis Auditorium.

Director of the Honors Forum and Mathematics Professor David Vella welcomed Solomon to the stage after speaking briefly about Jon Ramsey, whom the lecture is named after.

Solomon's lecture was a synopsis of his Terror Management Theory, which he began to develop during his years in graduate school.

Terror Management Theory seeks to explain the prevailing travesties experienced by humans since the beginning of recorded culture.

The theory was sparked by the harsh realization that humanity's recorded history is plagued with genocide, tragedy and evil, Solomon said.

One unique feature of humans, according to Solomon, is that we are self-aware.

As a result of this self-awareness, humans are also conscious of an imminent mortality, which creates an incredible anxiety, Solomon said.

Solomon said culture is a human construct serving a death-denying function to deal with this anxiety.

When two people from different cultures meet and the thought of death is present, hostility is projected as a defense mechanism against the prevailing anxiety. These are the logistics of Terror Management Theory, Solomon said.

At the lecture, Solomon discussed an experiment he conducted during the 2004 election season.

Solomon separated registered voters from Rutgers University into a control and a manipulated group.

The control group read an article about a painful experience, while the manipulated group read an article featuring death.

Next, the voters were anonymously asked who they would vote for in the upcoming presidential elections.

The control group favored John Kerry's less aggressive war policies 4 - 1.

The manipulated group favored George Bush's more aggressive war policies 3 - 1.

The results confirmed Solomon's theory that when made aware of death, humans project hostility on to other cultures to suppress the anxiety of their own imminent mortality.

After the lecture, Solomon opted out of an audience to speaker question-and-answer session.

Instead, he met the audience for refreshments outside Gannett Auditorium to personally address any questions.

Honor Certificates were also distributed to the first-year High Honors and Honors.

The lecture was sponsored by the Honors Forum and the Office of First-Year Experience, and also served as an accolade to this year's first-year honors students.

Jon Ramsey was a professor in Skidmore's English Department for 28 years and later became the dean of Studies, serving from 1994 to 2004.

Professor Ramsey's contributions to the college include propelling the Honors Forum into existence and the Office of International Programs.

Ramsey was well-known for his administrative writing, which is displayed throughout Skidmore's college catalog and Academic Information Guide.

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