Why do people hate? I had an experience recently, which I would describe as an expression of “hatred” towards me. Without going into the details of the experience, my natural curiosity got me searching for the nature of the emotion that manifests itself as hatred in humans. What I discovered was rather exonerating. The first thing I discovered was that we humans tend to hate the things we do not understand. For instance, I remember my early days in secondary school, I use to hate mathematics, even though I thought it was a smart subject, I hated it. I never knew how to solve simple mathematical equations, it was a Herculean task. The reason why I hated mathematics was that I did not understand it. My lack of understanding of mathematics was then turned into hatred for the subject. So it then happened that I later got a good mathematics teacher, who taught me well, I was able to understand the subject, and I instantly grew a love for mathematics. I would solve mathematics all day because I now understood it. It then makes sense to say that we tend to hate the people that we do not understand also. We tend to hate the people we don’t feel at home with, people we don’t identify with; It’s something natural. By hatred I also mean dislike.
Any time we meet someone we do not understand, someone we do not identify with, or simply put, someone we do not feel is “one of us”, we tend to put them in an “outgroup” category and then this could manifest itself as hatred. Whenever we are meeting someone for the first time, our brain starts calculating subconsciously and sizing up the person to see if the person is “one of us” or not one of us. Whenever we start picking up traits in the person that we either do not understand, do not like, or traits we do not have in ourselves, we subconsciously begin to put the person in an “outgroup” category. Those who either have similar traits to ours, traits we understand and can relate to; we put these individuals in the “ingroup” category, so those who are in the ingroup category are seen as better, acceptable, appealing, superior or more ethical than those in the outgroup, so we tend to hate outgroup members. Psychologists call this phenomenon the ultimate attribution error, this is a naturally occurring bias whereby we judge people who are “one of us” more favourably than people who are not one of us. So it’s only human nature that someone who hates you simply does so because he/she thinks you aren’t one of them, it can be demonstrated experimentally using the minimal group paradigm, it’s so easy for a human to discriminate against someone based on the category the person has been placed in his/her mind even within a very short period of time.
Of course, this is just the basic reason why people hate, there are other countless reasons why someone would hate you, but the fact still remains that, you cannot hate someone you consider as one of your own (“part of us”). Even if for example you claim that the person has a trait you consider negative, such as over-confidence, then you think it’s simply because the person is over-confident, that’s why you hate him/her. On a closer look, in this particular example, you would realize that you do not consider yourself over-confident, hence someone who is over-confident belongs to the “outgroup” hence doesn’t “belong” and so you hate him/her. It all boils down to mental grouping. Do you know that the same trait you hate in someone, that you think is a bad trait, is exactly what another person would find irresistible and would cause instant attraction/admiration for that same person you hate? This is what they mean when they say birds of the same feather flock together. The only traits that are actually bad, ceteris paribus, are those that could cause or potentially cause harm to people around. So it’s common to momentarily hate someone who is exhibiting traits that are causing us harm either physically or emotionally, even though we normally like them.
Some school of thoughts would say that we hate others because they have what we do not have. This also boils down to the basic reason why people hate, mental grouping. Let’s say there is someone who is very unemotional/unreactive, another person who has anger issues, or who is emotionally unstable can envy this trait in this other person, and because he cannot understand why someone would be so unemotional/unreactive, to cope with this discomforting reality, he has to convert this feeling of insecurity/inadequacy into hatred. Of course, there is no way we would envy someone’s trait if we had that same trait in us. So it still boils down to the basic reason, and provides a solid attempt at answering the question: why do people hate?
You might ask, what is the real-life scenario of all these? What makes the question, “why do people hate?” any important? Answering the question provides an answer to why racism still persists among humans, explains why tribalism persists, explains why patriarchy still reigns in our society. It also explains why you would meet someone for the first time and not just like the person, without being able to point to a reason why. It says a lot about human nature, a lot goes on, on the subconscious level that we aren’t aware of. There are certain times we meet people for the first time and we just like them instantly even within a minute of meeting them. It’s almost beyond our control.
The beautiful thing about knowing this is that, it makes it easy for us not to hate. Since we understand that hatred is something humans experience whenever we subconsciously feel someone is not one of our own, it becomes natural to conclude that most times our hatred towards others isn’t justified most of the time. It’s just nature taking its course towards group survival in a “hostile world”, and I believe it would also help people who might be victims of hate, to understand what is going on, and not feel so bad nor try to hate in return.
The world might not be a perfect place, but we can make our internal world a perfect place by understanding what goes on in our mind, which would reflect in our interactions in an “imperfect world”.