Why Do We Hate?

“What makes hate tick? How can we stop it?” These are the questions that Jim Mohr, director of Gonzaga University’s Institute for Action Against Hate, asks himself every day as he develops a new field of study around hate. Mohr believes that despite all the devastating examples of hate in the world, no one really understands why one person hates another. The institute hopes to change that through the interdisciplinary study of hate, incorporating insights from history, psychology, religious studies, anthropology, and political science. Mohr cautions against simple explanations of the emotion and points out that fear, greed, and even the desire to belong can drive hate. That said, he is also optimistic: “We can change. There has to be hope.” [%comments]

John T

Hopefully this study will lead to level headed discussion (and perhaps some progress) on this issue vs. exacerbating the rancor.

The definition of "hate" is so subjective int he minds of individuals that a half baked study could do more harm than good. To some hate is everywhere. To others it does not exist.

I wish John Mohr luck.

Ian Kemmish

To the extent that hate seems to be one of those irregular nouns, couldn't one even go so far as to claim that "we hate" is an oxymoron?

*We* never hate., do we?

Consider: how many times in the past eight years have you heard someone say: "They are doing this because they hate everything about us." You've lost count, haven't you? And how many times have you heard anyone say "We are doing this because we hate everything about them." I'll wager the answer is "never".

Vincent Paul

Mohr will find that hate is the reaction to not getting what one desires. He will find that our perception of truth is what drives hate. He will find that truth is subjective when hate occurs. He will conclude that the only way to deal with hate is to make truth objective and he will find that this will not be possible when blending multiple disciplines.

caveat bettor

This seems to buttress the theory of original sin.


All of what makes us tick as animals derives from evoluation and our struggle to survive. "Hate" is necessary to survival. One can imagine that as our early forebears competed intensely for food (i.e. limited resources) to survive, territorial possession with access to the source of the foodstuffs was a survival imperative. Hate becomes a useful emotion against a competitor.

Here's a nice experiment to try: Deprive NYC of food, water and electricity. Then, wait and see how long it takes for chaos, violence and mayhem to break out as the tens of thousands of beings compete for survival.

That's from where hate spings.


Why should we stop to hate evil?

It's the most rational and natural reaction in the world, and the reason why we are civilised nowadays.

Hate can be a force of good and motivate people to do heroic things they would not achieve if they were ambivalent or afraid.

Hate, not hugs for Nazis and other evil people/systems/ideas!

(So I think the topic needs to be rephrased, I can see where you want to go, but your starting point is invalid. One man's hate is another mans' heroism, it's impossible to take sides.)


Philosophy is a blatant omission from the above list. Hate has many sources and takes many forms. Often we see some forms of hate as legitimate (the hatred that Christians felt toward pagan romans) or understandable (the hatred of a Palestinian for the Israeli state?)

There are certainly interesting pathways to be explored in neuroscience and psychology with regard to hatred, but the answer to hate is right in front of us: eliminate it at its root, that is, eliminate ressentiment in all aspects of human life.


Don't take away my hate; it's all I have left. :(

Silas Barta

What I hate is when someone is new to an issue that's been under a lot of scrutiny because of its implications for humanity's future, and then reports on it in a glib way that gets all the facts wrong, misquotes experts, fails to do basic reality checks, and leaves out significant information that affects the conclusion.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any examples off the top of my head. Can anyone help me here?


In addition to the question of defining hate, as John T pointed out, Mohr must seriously ask and consider whether hate is ever a good thing (perhaps evolutionarily) and whether we really want all hate to be eviscerated. Perhaps the definition of hate we choose to use, might shape our answers to those two questions.


hate is just love gone sour

steve kilianski Ph.D.

A noble quest, but understanding hate is probably an epistemological 'tar baby,' not unlike 'intelligence.' Lacking a precise conceptual definition, scientists proceed to develop and refine operational definitions of the construct. Once they do so, their validity is widely challenged. A banal and self-evident conclusion: Hate is likely to be a multi-dimensional construct that does not lend itself to a conceptual defintion that has wide consensus.


John T nails the critical first step: outline very specifically what we are referring to when referring to "hate."

I would also add that, similar to examining Alzheimers patients to enrich our understanding of memory, any such study should also examine those not so easily inclined to hate...under circumstances that would likely drive some to murderous rage. These unique individuals possess a near limitless compassion that, in contrast to the rest of us, make them interesting subjects.

I, for one, find that hate blinds me from a reasoned response. But, of course, I am human. And occasionally not a proponent of reason. Don't hate me, please!


I wonder what the neuroscience of hate looks like - whether hate "feels good" for some.


"He will find that truth is subjective when hate occurs."

Truth as subjective? Absolutely not. There's no such thing as "subjective truth"; it collapses into subjectivism and a person's beliefs about their subjective views.

As someone who does conceptual analysis, I would have to concur that Dr. Kilianski holds a view that, on a prima facie basis, seems to be correct.

Omitting philosophy from this interdepartmental group assumes something about scientific realism, or (in an extreme case that would have to be fleshed out) logical positivism.

Sounds like Jim Mohr needs to get some philosophers of science/cog-sci/psychology on board.

Doug Nelson

People hate for many reasons, some complicated, some very simple. But all these reasons boil down to some variant of "people hate because it feels good".

It can be the adrenaline high enjoyed by soccer hooligans, the perverted sense of order for the racist, or the quiet self-satisfaction of a forum troll. But all of them do it to scratch an itch of one sort or another.


That just brings about the question "why does it feel good"?

When I think about hate, I think of political partisanship, the us vs the world sentiment espoused by many religious ideologues, and, to a much smaller extent, the "root for the home team/home town/Alma mat-ta" effect you see with sports.

I'm not saying that any of those groups is going to bring back death camps, but I suspect that there is a deeply ingrained human need to belong in an exclusive group. When taken to an extreme, this exclusion, by necessity means that there is always an "us" and a "them"


Many types of hate are similar to obesity.

The cause is intellectual laziness


Hate is what you get when a bunch of people actively try and change the world so it fits their ideals while ignoring the feelings of the people whom they feel are ignorant which whom they are trying to change.


Hate is to have a great aversion to, with a strong desire that evil should befall the person toward whom the feeling is directed; to dislike intensely; to detest; as, to hate one's enemies. It is true, the word is tossed around a lot but it never really exists. To relate this to economics, hate is like a negative/diminishing utility. If you hate someone its because their actions, also called "services", were not very pleasurable. if you hate something like burgers, their 'taste', was not very pleasurable. The author says, "no one really understands why one person hates another. " You may not understand why you don't like the burger or why you dislike the service that a person provided you with but the service and burger can change to maximize your utility.