Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Hate and meaning in life: How collective, but not personal, hate quells threat and spurs meaning in life

A. Elnakouri, C. Hubley, & I. McGregor
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 98, January 2022,


Classic and contemporary perspectives link meaning in life to the pursuit of a significant purpose, free from incoherence. The typical assumption is that these meaningful purposes are prosocial, or at least benign. Here, we tested whether hate might also bolster meaning in life, via motivational states underlying significant purpose and coherence. In two studies (N = 847; Study 2 pre-registered), describing hatred (vs. mere dislike) towards collective entities (societal phenomena, institutions, groups), but not individuals, heightened feelings linked to the behavioral approach system (BAS; eagerness, determination, enthusiasm), which underlies a sense of significant purpose, and muted feelings linked to threat and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS; confused, uncertain, conflicted), which underlies a sense of incoherence. This high BAS and low BIS, in turn, predicted meaning in life beyond pre-manipulation levels. Exploratory analyses suggested that personal hatreds did not have the meaning-bolstering effects that collective hatreds had due to meaning-dampening negative feelings. Discussion focuses on motivation for collective and ideological hatreds in threatening circumstances.


Classic and contemporary  theories in psychology  and beyond pro-pose that various threats can cause zealous responses linked to collective hate  (Arendt,  1951;  Freud,  1937;  Jonas  et  al.,  2014).  The  present research offers one reason behind the appeal of collective hate in such circumstances: it’s ability to spur meaning in life. Shielded from the negativity of personal hate, collective forms of hate can mute threat and BIS-related  feelings,  boost  BAS-related  feelings,  thereby  fostering meaning in life. This research therefore helps us better understand the motivational drivers of hate and why it is an ever-present feature of the human condition.