Hate is usually directed externally (e.g., toward an object, person, or group of people), although sometimes it is directed inward, toward the self.
In psychoanalytic terms, hate is addressed primarily in interpersonal (usually family) contexts. In social psychologyOpens in new window, hate between groups is considered a particular topic of interest, as in racism, prejudice, hate crimesOpens in new window, and genocide.
Hate has been described as a stable (enduring) personality trait, a motivation, and as a sentiment or framework for orienting one’s life. As an emotionOpens in new window, hate has often been contrasted with loveOpens in new window. However, love and hate do not appear to be mutually exclusive, nor are they opposite. One can feel love and hate for another at the same time (this is known as love-hate relationship). Like love, hate has a target.
As an emotion, hate has been described as transient (fleeting); it has been described as combinations of other negative emotionsOpens in new window such as angerOpens in new window, contemptOpens in new window, disgustOpens in new window, and fearOpens in new window (Rempel & Burris, 2005).
Sigmund FreudOpens in new window believed that humans have a death instinct (Thanatos). ThanatosOpens in new window—a fascination with one’s own or others’ deaths—has been proposed as a cause of hateful acts (e.g., terrorism, genocide). Other theorists have explained hate crimes and extreme acts of violence using the concept of evil.
American psychologist Robert SternbergOpens in new window posits a triangular theory of hate, with three components:
- negation of intimacy,
- passion, and
- decision-commitment (2003).
Hate can be captured by feelings or by actions.
- Negation of intimacy, manifested by seeking to create distance between oneself and the target of the hatred, is accompanied by feelings of repulsion and disgust.
- The passion component of hate is expressed as intense anger or fear in response to a perceived threat or violation.
- Decision-commitment, motivated by feelings of contempt, is characterized by thoughts of devaluation of the hatred target object. Those who foment this type of hatred portray members of other groups as subhuman (Sternberg, 2003).
According to Rempel and Burris (2005), there are several types of hate, including sadism, mutiny, tethering, denigration, redress, and nihilistic hate.
- In sadistic hate, causing another to suffer elicits excitement or pleasure. The process of hurting or torturing another may be done as part of thrill seeking or to elicit excitement (as in some cases of serial killing). Sadistic hate is acted out against a nonconsenting other person.
- Mutiny is a type of hate that is prompted by a sense of resentment or feeling of being trapped. Usually a result of a dependent relationship, the goal of mutiny is to assert autonomy.
- Thethering means disabling another through physical, financial or psychological means. Tethering may occur in the context of domestic violence, when the abuser attempts to assert control over the victim. The ultimate goal of tethering—done out of a fear of abandonment or loss—is to secure a relationship.
- Acts of denigration, prompted by feelings of envy or contemptOpens in new window, are done to elevate the self (by putting down or keeping down another). Denigration occurs when there is a perception of competition such as gaining parental approval, job promotion, or social status.
Group denigration may occur (in the form of racism, discrimination, or hate crimes) in economically stressed environments, when members of another group are perceived as unfairly taking limited jobs or educational opportunities.
- Redress is another word for revenge or retribution. Redress is grounded in human notions of fairness and justice, including beliefs that members of one’s own group are deserving or entitled to good things. When bad things happen to oneself (or a member of one’s family or identified group), a sense of anger, unfairness, injustice, violation, or disgust ensues. The goal of redress is to restore order and justice by exacting revenge or punishment.
- Nihilistic hate is motivated by feelings of loathing and a desire to harm, diminish, or destroy another. Nihilistic hate is considered overkill, or out of proportion to acts that are committed out of a desire to restore order or justice (e.g., redress). For example, destructive, violent acts such as extreme forms of road rage (e.g., pursuing or shooting other drivers) and going postal (e.g., shooting coworkers in one’s place of employment) go well beyond behaviors that might be thought of as redressing perceived wrongs (Rempel & Burris, 2005).
- Rempel, J.K., & Burris, C.T. (2005). Let me count the ways: An integrative theory of love and hate. Personal Relationships, 12, 297 – 313.
- Sternberg, R.J. (2003). A duplex theory of hate: Development and application to terrorism, massacres, and genocide. Review of General Psychology, 7, 299 – 328.
- Sternberg, R.J., & Sternberg, K. (2008). The nature of hate. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Beck, A.T. (2000). Prisoners of hate: The cognitive basis of anger, hostility, and violence. New York: HarperCollincs.