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Thursday, September 15, 2022

The psychology of hate: Moral concerns differentiate hate from dislike

Pretus, C., Ray, J. L., et al. (2018, June 25). 


We investigated whether any differences in the psychological conceptualization of hate and dislike were simply a matter of degree of negativity (i.e., hate falls on the end of the continuum of dislike) or also morality (i.e., hate is imbued with distinct moral components that distinguish it from dislike). In three lab studies in Canada and the US, participants reported disliked and hated attitude objects and rated each on dimensions including valence, attitude strength, morality, and emotional content. Quantitative and qualitative measures revealed that hated attitude objects were more negative than disliked attitude objects and associated with moral beliefs and emotions, even after adjusting for differences in negativity. In study four, we analyzed the rhetoric on real hate sites and complaint forums and found that the language used on prominent hate websites contained more words related to morality, but not negativity, relative to complaint forums.


In our first study, we examined whether the conceptual differences between hate and dislike are simply a matter of degree of negativity or also a matter of morality. We found support for the intensity hypothesis—hated objects were viewed as more negative than disliked objects—suggesting that the difference between hate and dislike is indeed a matter of intensity. However, we also found support for the morality hypothesis—hated attitude objects were rated as more connected to participants’ core moral beliefs and were associated with higher levels of moral emotions (contempt, anger, and disgust) than disliked attitude objects—suggesting that the difference between hate and dislike may also be a matter of morality. We found convergent evidence for this latter hypothesis across quantitative and qualitative analyses, with self-reports, expressions of moral emotions, and spontaneous descriptions.

We note that differences in morality were attenuated when participants were asked about disliked attitudinal objects first. We discuss possible explanations of this order effect below. Importantly, the results supporting the morality hypothesis remained significant even when adjusting for negativity. Above and beyond the effect of negativity, both moral concerns and moral emotions explained the variance in ratings of hated versus disliked attitude objects. Likewise, participants spontaneously reported that hated objects were more closely tied to morality than disliked objects in their qualitative responses. These findings provide preliminary evidence that the conceptualization of hate may differ from dislike, and that morality may play a key role in explaining this difference.