Yale Professor Presents Theory of Hate in Terrorism, Genocide and Massacres

The hate seen in terrorism, genocide, and massacres, is one of the most pressing problems facing the world today, and, according to Robert Sternberg, Yale professor of psychology, it can be combated by wisdom.

Sternberg said in the current issue of the Review of General Psychology that treating the symptoms of hate is not a solution. Arresting individuals who commit atrocities is ineffective because there are many more people ready to take their place.

“It’s kind of like putting a finger in the dike,” he said. “You can’t treat the symptoms and leave the cause. It is really important as a psychologist to understand what underlies this.”

Sternberg said hate has three components: dehumanization of the hated person or group; passion, and a commitment to continue the hatred. The hatred is perpetuated by stories, or propaganda.

Sternberg previously formulated a theory of love.

“Hate groups have a whole construction of why this group is really awful and has to be destroyed. It’s like brainwashing,” he said. “Amazingly, it sells.”

Sternberg says hate can be countered with wisdom – by his definition using intelligence, creativity and experience for a common good. He devised a curriculum now pilot testing in New Haven and Milford middle schools that teaches children history from multiple points of view. The students also are taught dialogical thinking, or understanding situations from many points of view, and dialectical thinking, or understanding how truth evolves.

Citation: Review of General Psychology, Vo. 7: pp 299-328

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