Haters Are Just Wired That Way
August 27, 2013

Dispositional Attitude Explains Why Haters Will Be Haters

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

You may have noticed some people seem to dislike everything around them, while others seem to like everything they encounter. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and the University of Illinois has uncovered the reason behind this seemingly arbitrary personality quirk. The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shows this preference is part of our individual personalities – a dimension the research team has coined as “dispositional attitude.”

According to the research team, comprised of Justin Hepler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dolores Albarracín, PhD, the Martin Fishbein Chair of Communication and Professor of Psychology at Penn, people with a positive dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to like things, whereas people with a negative dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to dislike things.

“The dispositional attitude construct represents a new perspective in which attitudes are not simply a function of the properties of the stimuli under consideration, but are also a function of the properties of the evaluator,” wrote the authors. “[For example], at first glance, it may not seem useful to know someone’s feelings about architecture when assessing their feelings about health care. After all, health care and architecture are independent stimuli with unique sets of properties, so attitudes toward these objects should also be independent.”

The researchers note, however, there is still one critical factor an individual’s attitudes will all have in common: the person who formed the attitudes. “Some people may simply be more prone to focusing on positive features and others on negative features,” Hepler said.

The team created a scale that requires people to report their attitudes toward a wide variety of unrelated stimuli, such as architecture, cold showers, politics, and soccer, in order to discover whether people differ in the tendency to like or dislike things. Once they understood how much people like or dislike these specific things, the team averaged the responses to calculate their dispositional attitude – or how much they tend to like or dislike things in general. If people differ in their general tendency to like versus dislike objects, the researchers hypothesized that their attitudes toward independent objects may actually be related. Throughout the length of the study, the team found people with generally positive dispositional attitudes are more open than people with generally negative dispositional attitudes. This means people with positive dispositional attitudes may be more prone to purchase new products, get vaccinated, and follow regular positive actions - recycling, driving carefully, etc. – in their day-to-day lives.

“This surprising and novel discovery expands attitude theory by demonstrating that an attitude is not simply a function of an object’s properties, but it is also a function of the properties of the individual who evaluates the object,” concluded Hepler and Albarracín. “Overall, the present research provides clear support for the dispositional attitude as a meaningful construct that has important implications for attitude theory and research.”