Do you have someone in your life that just seems to hate everything? Maybe you think of them as a “Debbie or Donald downer.”
You have probably become accustomed to the idea that if this friend or family member is presented with something new they will probably have a negative reaction.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
has published a new study that confirms that there are people who are simply looking at life through a negative lens most of the time. Psychologists Justin Hepler and Dolores Albarracin wrote “Attitudes Without Objects”
in the journal to describe this.
The way they conducted their research seemed very straightforward. They asked 200 men and women to assess how they felt about various disconnected things such as: healthcare, camping, crossword puzzles, and so on. Those who rated many of these things negatively received an “H” by their name (for Haters.) They repeated the same study with the same group one month later to rule out the possibility that someone was simply in a bad mood that first day of questioning. Those who consistently viewed many of the topics in a negative light became reliable “Haters.”
The researchers then asked the entire group to evaluate a new product, which was a high-tech microwave oven but in fact didn’t actually exist. Study subjects didn’t know that the product was made up and was shown reviews, both positive and negative, about this fake item. Sure enough those that had been identified as “Haters” were more likely to have harsh criticism for this new product and some even thought it was awful.
Obviously advertisers are in a perpetual state of trying to please as many people as they can at the same time. What is interesting about research like this is that it adds to the idea that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. And it strengthens the notion that there are some people you may never be able to please. There are certainly trends to be aware of, and even “Haters” have some limited categories of things they approve of. Targeting those areas is obviously the goal for anyone looking to please this group.
From a relationship standpoint it is worth looking at people’s attitudes towards others in general. This tends to be a good predictor of social success, likeability, and the ability to be compatible with others. Negativity in general contributes to difficult interpersonal relationships and, while some of these attitudes are the result of life experience and an individual’s mood, many of them are deeply ingrained and hard to budge.
If you identify as a “Hater” or have a loved one that seems to dislike most things, it is well worth a look inward to try and determine how much of that response is just habit and how much is genuine. The next study should focus on whether or not “Haters” can be turned into “Likers.” It would certainly make life more enjoyable for them and for those around them!
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