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The Social Psychology of Hatred


Evan R. Harrington

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, US
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Hatred has not typically been a topic of research in the field of social psychology, although several components which embody hatred have been studied extensively in this field. Social psychologists have traditionally considered prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and intergroup aggression to be highly important and socially relevant topics for research, and thousands of studies by social psychologists have examined these and other issues related to hatred. There are three primary approaches social psychologists have utilized in studying prejudice and intergroup aggression. The first approach may be thought of as a general model of social influence in which a variety of situational factors have been found to increase, or decrease, laboratory subjects’ proclivity to engage in stereotyping or aggressive behavior. Particular types of situations may promote hatred, such as when individuals in mobs behave in ways they ordinarily would not. The second approach might be termed an interpersonal attitude approach, in the sense that individuals are measured in the degree to which they hold attitudes corresponding to authoritarianism and social dominance, which in turn relate to social hostility and prejudice. This approach, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, fell out of favor during the past quarter century, and is currently experiencing a revival of interest by researchers. The third approach focuses on social cognition or the way in which humans perceive the social world in a biased manner due to limits on the brain’s information processing capacity. The social cognition approach in turn gave rise to social categorization theory and social identity theory, both of which describe important aspects of intergroup processes that explain outgroup derogation and discrimination. Each of these three approaches describes aspects of what we may commonly think of as hatred.

How to Cite: Harrington, E.R., 2004. The Social Psychology of Hatred. Journal of Hate Studies, 3(1), pp.49–82. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 2004.
Peer Reviewed


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