Culture Wars/Current Controversies

New psychology research indicates hatred toward collective entities inspires meaning in life

Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has revealed that hatred toward collective entities, such as institutions or groups – but not individuals – can bolster meaning in life.

“I think that any casual observer of human nature recognizes that many prominent cultural figures or political movements gain a lot of steam when they have a clear, identifiable enemy that they are fighting against. I started reflecting more on why this might be, and it occurred to me that having an enemy, someone to hate, might energize people,” explained study author Abdo Elnakouri (@AbdoElnakouri), a PhD student at the University of Waterloo. “Hatred might be a powerful motivating force, giving people a clear purpose against a worthwhile enemy—in other words, a life full of meaning.”

While personal hatred aimed toward specific people could spur meaning, it may also elicit negative feelings (e.g., victimization, resentment) which might undermine any derived meaning. Collective hatred is aimed toward groups, social phenomena or institutions, and may be more likely to inspire a sense of purpose in life that transcends the negative experiences associated with personal vendettas. Further, hatred toward abstract collective entities may provide a more simplistic, evil enemy compared to personal hatred toward a concrete individual.

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