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President George W. Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the September 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
Talking about death can raise people's need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat," said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study.
"We are saying this is psychologically useful," said Solomon.
Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said generating fear was a common tactic.
"A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil," Greenberg said in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he presented the findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association.