Duplex Theory of Hate

The duplex theory of hate, like the duplex theory of love, has two parts:  a triangular theory and a theory of hate as a story.


Triangular Theory of Hate

Typically hate is thought of as a single emotion.  But there is reason to believe that hate has multiple components that can manifest themselves in different ways on different occasions.  According to a triangular component of the duplex theory of fate, hate potentially comprises three components.  As with love, hate can be captured by both feelings triangles and action triangles.  Feelings may or may not translate themselves into actions, and actions may or may not represent genuine feelings.  People may interpret actions as meaning different things, depending on their mappings of feelings into actions and vice versa.  There are three components of hate: negation of intimacy, passion, and commitment.

The first potential component of hate is the negation of intimacy.  Negation of intimacy in hate is characterized by repulsion and disgust. Whereas intimacy involves the seeking of closeness, the negation of intimacy involves the seeking of distance.  Often distance is sought from a target individual because that individual arouses repulsion and disgust in the person who experiences hate.  This repulsion and disgust may arise from the person’s characteristics or actions or from propaganda depicting certain kinds of characteristics and acts.  Negation of intimacy also can be experienced in individual hate relationships, as when one comes to view a person one knows as inhuman.  The hated individual may have committed a crime against one’s person, and in the case of a sexual crime, a reaction of disgust and revulsion is common. 

A second potential component of hate is passion, which expresses itself as intense anger or fear in response to a threat.  Anger leads often leads one to approach, fear to avoid, the object of hate. Propaganda may depict the targeted individuals as an imminent threat to approved society, and one that should be feared because of this threat.  Targeted groups may be depicted as rapacious warriors bent on defiling women or attacking children or as monsters that threaten the very fabric of society (as well as the individual rights of its members).  This component of hate is typically rapid in its growth and often rapid in its demise. The two subcomponents of the passion component are anger and fear.  They appear to be distinguishable.  And both are again distinguishable from the feelings of disgust characteristic of the negation of intimacy

The third potential component of hate is decision/commitment, which is characterized by cognitions of devaluation and diminution through contempt for the targeted group.  The hater is likely to feel contempt toward the target individual or group, viewing the target as barely human or even as subhuman.  The goal of those who foment hate is to change the thought processes of the preferred population so that its members will conceive of the targeted group(s) in a devalued way.  Often these changes are accomplished through some kind of instructional or otherwise “educational” program, whether in school or without.  In other terms, this kind of program could be viewed as constituting “brainwashing.”

                                           The Hate Triangle

                                           The Hate Triangle

Different combinations of components of hate lead to different kinds of hate.  These are: (1) Cool hate:  Disgust (disgust of negation of intimacy alone), (2) Hot hate: Anger/Fear (anger/fear of passion alone), (3) Cold hate: Devaluation/Diminution (devaluation/diminution of decision/commitment alone), (4) Boiling hate: Revulsion (disgust of negation of intimacy + anger/fear of passion), (5) Simmering hate:  Loathing (disgust of negation of intimacy + devaluation/diminution of decision/commitment), (6) Seething hate: Revilement (anger/fear of passion + devaluation/diminution of decision/commitment), and (7) Burning hate:  Need for annihilation (disgust of negation of intimacy + anger/fear of passion + devaluation/diminution of decision/commitment).


Theory of Hate as a Story

The theory of hate as a story, like the theory of love as a story, proposes that hate emerges from different kinds of stories.  Some of the most common stories, deriving from the work of Sam Keene, Anthony Rhodes, Robert Zajonc, and others, are

Stranger (vs. in-group),

Impure-other (vs. pure in-group),

Controller (vs. controlled),

Faceless foe (vs. individuated in-group),

Enemy of God (vs. servant of God),

Morally bankrupt (vs. morally sound),

Death (vs. life),

Barbarian (vs. civilized in-group),

Greedy enemy (vs. financially responsible in-group),

Criminal (vs. innocent party),

Torturer (vs. victim),

Murderer (vs. victim),

Seducer/rapist (vs. victim),

Animal-pest (vs. human),

Power-crazed (vs. mentally balanced),

Subtle-infiltrator (vs. infiltrated),

Comic-character (vs. sensible in-group), and

Thwarter/destroyer of destiny (vs. seeker of destiny).

Instigation of hate covers roughly 5 steps.  Not all steps need to occur in order for hate to come into being.  Indeed, even one step may start the process.  The steps are:

(1) The target is revealed to be anathema.

(2) The target plans actions contrary to the interests of the in-group.

(3) The target makes its presence felt. 

(4) The target translates plans into action.

(5) The target is achieving some success in its goals. 

Finally, perception becomes realityThere may be elements of truth in some stories.  For example, a particular opponent may be loathsome in any number of ways.   But the power of stories is that their perception becomes, for the individual experiencing the stories, reality.  The individual typically does not question whether a given story is true.  For him or her, it simply is true.



Key References

Sternberg, R. J. (2003). A duplex theory of hate: Development and application to terrorism, massacres, and genocide. Review of General Psychology. 7(3), 299–328.

Sternberg, R. J. (2005). Understanding and combating hate. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.) The psychology of hate (pp. 37–49). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2008).  The nature of hate.  New York: Cambridge University Press.