Psychology of Hatred and Its Factors

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In recent years, there has been growing public awareness about economic, ethnic, and gender inequality based on institutionalized hatred of certain groups. Societal inequality has been deemed “one of defining issues of our time” (Jetten & Peters, 2019). The reasons for group-based hatred are multi-varied and complex. In addition to sociological perspectives, it is necessary to understand the psychological dimensions of hatred and dehumanization and how inequality is perpetuated on an individual scale. The theories that offer the best explanations for why people hate certain groups are normative conformity, heuristics, and in-group out-group theory.

Why People Hate Certain Groups

Firstly, to understand the psychological manifestation of hatred, it is necessary to acknowledge the role of sociology and normative conformity. Certain forms of discrimination are institutionalized and systematically embedded into the structure of society (Tourse, Hamilton-Mason & Wewiorski, 2018). An individual then prefers to follow the prevailing view of their culture and avoid confronting their beliefs (Czopp, 2019). This phenomenon is known in psychology as normative conformity, the tendency to yield to group expectations to gain acceptance (Qin et al., 2022). If people are constantly exposed to prejudicial remarks, they will reduce cognitive dissonance and justify their inaction by believing them (Aroson et al., 2021). The combination of institutionalized discrimination and individual normative conformity is one dimension of hatred.

Secondly, heuristics lead to cognitive biases that form stereotypes and discrimination. In order to reduce cognitive overload, the brain has developed a few mental shortcuts to make quick and efficient judgments that are known as heuristics (Waltman & Mattheis, 2017). The availability heuristic assumes that easily remembered events are more common (Furnham, Arnulf & Robinson, 2021). The representativeness heuristic is classifying something according to its similarity to a mental prototype (Aroson et al., 2021). While both heuristics enable the brain to make fast decisions, they also introduce many errors, overgeneralization, and generally inaccurate judgments (Ceschi et al., 2019). For example, people begin to stereotype all Muslims and Arabs as terrorists and begin to hate them. Availability and representativeness heuristics explain the cognitive component of stereotyping and ensuing hatred.

Thirdly, another factor that contributes to hatred is the construction of a social identity based on us versus them. A person develops a concept of self-depending on their affiliation with a certain group, whether it is national, religious, occupation, or political (Heslam, Cornelissen, & Werner, 2017). Preferential treatment is then given to members of one’s own group, while outsiders are considered different, dangerous, and threatening. This in-group favoritism and out-group hatred are known as in-group out-group theory (Abbink & Harris, 2019). Furthermore, members of the out-group are dehumanized and perceived as more homogenous (Aroson et al., 2021). Hating people perceived as “dangerous outsiders” is due to in-group out-group social identification.


In conclusion, the psychology of hatred has a social and cognitive dimension. Normative conformity states that people are incentivized to endorse institutionalized hatred to be accepted by their peers. According to availability and representativeness heuristics, the human brain facilitates problem-solving through stereotypes and prejudice in order to avoid cognitive overload. Finally, social identity is based on in-group affiliation and favoritism, while the out-group is demonized as a dangerous threat. The hatred of certain groups is thus normalized and perpetuated through numerous cognitive biases and a need for social belonging. In order to continue combatting social inequality, it is necessary to bring awareness to these phenomena.


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PsychologyWriting. "Psychology of Hatred and Its Factors." March 9, 2023.