The love-hate triangles of life

By on October 5, 2005

Love and hate are two emotions that we all feel, to some extent, on a daily basis. The levels and intensities of these feelings can be on large and small scales depending on the situation and reasons. Last Thursday, Professor Robert Sternberg, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University spoke on his “Duplex Theory of Hate: Its Application to Terrorism, Massacres and Genocide.”

Starting out with an anecdote about the first time he remembers really hating someone, Sternberg talked about rumors and the multiple ways hate “starts.” He said that hate is difficult to study because it is an ill-defined topic.

Hate can be dangerous to study and there is a lack of funding because it is not yet in mainstream psychology. He discussed the patterns of both love and hate and illustrated that “love and hate triangles” can change over time.

“You can quickly go from having passion and love to passion and hate when an act of betrayal happens,” Sternberg said.

Love is broken down into intimacy, passion and commitment and one will get a different outcome depending on how these three components are combined. Sternberg said that intimacy is an effective component, passion is a conative component. This means that it is quick to come and quick to go, leaving both parties with withdrawal symptoms when passion is taken away and commitment is a cognitive component. Combining these components will result in a different type of love, and normally, one only achieves a lasting love when all three are combined, which is also the hardest to accomplish.

Along with love, hate is also broken down into three components: negation of intimacy, passionate hate and decision-commitment.

Negation of hate has to do with the stereotyping of groups/people, creating negative nicknames for people and showcasing negative qualities. People who are in this stage often think “wonderful us and disgusting them.” This is also the stage of physical removal of a targeted group, such as removal of Jewish people in Nazi Germany in World War II.

Passionate hate is created by motives and it grows rapidly. Decision-commitment hate comes from how one grew up and was raised. Children pick up on the beliefs of their parents, teachers, and other peers, and this kind of hate is learned through experience and watching others.

“It’s interesting to note studies that have been done with children regarding hate,” Davenport said. “When left alone to play together these studied children were fine. When they were made to come to school wearing one of two separately colored T-shirts, they instantly began a feud between each color. I’m not sure if this shows a lack of education, or suggests that the roots of hate lie deeper within us as an intrinsic constituent of mankind.”

Both love and hate have a beginning, middle and end and they both have “stories” where certain people are matches while others are not. Within hate, there are four roles; the hater, the hated, and the two most important, the passive observer(s) and the active instigator(s). Often times, the passive observers are the worst because they sit and watch it all happen and do not say anything about what is going wrong, while the instigators plan everything.

People hate for a variety of reasons, Sternberg said, including economic reasons, social pressures, religious reasons, the moral imperative and to gain power. Propaganda is used to create a wide-spread feeling of hate and often times, those who are in non-compliance are severely punished.

The application of wisdom may help create a cure in time, but people need to be willing to stop stereotypes and forget all their negative thoughts of other groups before we can stop hate. Research has been done to see how people correlate feelings of love and hate and the application of intelligence and creativity has been used to produce more feelings of love.

While he covered a wide range of issues, one student felt that Sternberg missed one aspect of hate.

“Dr. Sternberg’s triangle theory is well known within his field, but I would have liked to see him go into greater detail regarding how exactly hate gets triggered in individuals leading up to genocides,” said Will Davenport, junior political science major. “He all too briefly touched upon this, acknowledging that love can and does transition to hate quickly. I do agree with him that prevention lies within education, especially when initiated at early ages.”


About Bethany Dionne