Personality trait makes haters hate, research finds

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    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    Puppies. Sunshine. Children’s laughter. If those things annoy you — actually, if most things annoy you — you just might have a negative “dispositional attitude.”

    “If someone has a negative dispositional attitude, they tend to dislike things regardless of what they are,” says doctoral student Justin Hepler “It’s the overall tendency to like or dislike stuff.”

    Hepler, who studies motivation and attitudes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, coined the phrase along with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication.

    Haters, we know who you are — even if you don’t recognize yourself.

    Hepler says spotting haters is fairly intuitive; nonetheless, the researchers wanted to develop a reliable measure of this newly named personality trait.

    It’s a seven-point scale. Extreme haters rate 1. People who embrace cold showers and public speaking get 7 points.

    To develop the tool, the investigators had undergraduates rate their attitude toward a wide range of stimuli from “abortion on demand” to “vegetarianism.”

    Big deal. What good does it do to know who’s a Negative Nellie and who’s not?

    Hepler, who rates a rosy 5.2 on the hate-o-meter, optimistically says that’s the next step in his work. He’s looking for links to behavior.

    Early research suggests that people who like more things do more things.

    “People who are haters — on the more negative dispositional side — they did fewer things with their day,” Hepler said. “There just aren’t as many things that they like, so they don’t do a lot of different things.”

    What you do with your time has a big impact on life satisfaction, Hepler said, and the dispositional personality trait might be a clue to changing life patterns.

    In the future, marketers — or health advocates — might be able to use the dispositional attitude personality trait to tailor persuasive messages.

    Getting haters to like broccoli — that may be a waste of time. A better strategy might be getting haters to stop doing unhealthy things such as eating french fries, and other high-calorie food.

    The study is published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”

    Happy reading.

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