Thomas A. Pyszczynski, Ph.D.

Headshot of Thomas Pyszczynski.

Thomas A. Pyszczynski, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor, Social Psychology
COLU 4025
Tuesday: 1:30pm-2:30pm

Professional Summary

Professor Tom Pyszczynski received his B.A. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (1976) and his M.A. and Ph.D in social psychology from the University of Kansas (1979 & 1980). His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 1989. He received an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for collaborative research with psychologists in Germany and several grants from the Dutch government for collaborative research with psychologists in the Netherlands. He and his colleagues have played a major role in the development of Experimental Existential Psychology, an emerging sub-discipline of social psychology that applies rigorous experimental methods to the study of human confrontation with existential problems such as death, freedom, isolation, and nature. He teaches a variety of courses in social psychology.

Dr. Pyszczynski's research is focused primarily on Terror Management Theory, which he developed with his colleagues Jeff Greenberg and Sheldon Solomon. Terror management theory is concerned with the role of self-esteem and cultural belief systems in providing protection against core human fears, especially the fear of death. Over the years Professor Pyszczynski and colleagues have explored the role of terror management processes in a wide range of topics, including self-esteem, self-deception, prejudice, interpersonal relations, altruism, aggression, sexual ambivalence, disgust, depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, unconscious processes, aging, human development, and terrorism. He has also conducted research on how people fool themselves into believing that their biased views follow logically from the available facts and on the role of self-regulatory processes in depression and other psychological disorders.


  • Ph.D. Social Psychology,University of Kansas, 1980
  • M.A. Social Psychology, University of Kansas
  • B.A. Psychology, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Areas of Interest

Social psychology, clinical applications, and terror management theory


  • PSY 3400 - Social Psychology
  • PSY 3480 - Selected Topics  in Psychology
  • PSY 4400 - Seminar in Social Psychology
  • PSY 5820 - Research Statistics and Methodology II
  • PSY 6130 - Social Psychology

Representative Publications

  • Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Arndt, J., & Schimel, J. (in press). Why do people need self-esteem? A theoretical and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin.
  • Greenberg, J., Koole, S., & Pyszczynski, T. (in press). Handbook of experimental existential psychology. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2003; available August 2002). In the wake of September 11: The Psychology of Terror. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association
  • Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Goldenberg, J. (2003). Freedom vs. fear: On the defense, growth, and expansion of the self. In. M. Leary & J. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity.
  • Goldenberg, J. L., Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (2000). Fleeing the body: A terror management perspective on the problem of human corporeality. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 200-218.
  • McCoy, S., Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2000). Transcending the self: A terror management perspective on successful aging. In A. Tomer (Ed.), The Problem of Death among Older Adults (pp. 37-61). Taylor & Francis.
  • Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (1999). A dual process model of defense against conscious and unconscious death-related thought: An extension of terror management theory. Psychological Review, 106, 835-845.
  • Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (1987). A biased hypothesis testing model of motivated attributional distortion. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.
  • Pyszczynski, T. & Greenberg, J. (1987). Self-regulatory preservation and the depressive self-focusing style: A self-awareness theory of reactive depression. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 122-138.

Honors & Awards

  • Outstanding Research Mentor Award for the UCCS Campus, 2020
  • University of Colorado Distinguished Professor, 2008
  • UCCS Million Dollar Club (Research Funding)
  • Outstanding Research Award for the UCCS Campus, 1998
  • Outstanding Research Award for the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, 2001