Study: People May Naturally Be Lovers or Haters

A personality trait called "dispositional attitude" can predict whether people will like or dislike something new.
All you are is mean.
(YouTube)

Problem: People like things, and they don’t like other things. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology aims to explain the difference between lovers and haters by examining whether people are just innately predisposed to dislike or like things, depending on their personalities.

Methodology: Researchers determined people’s “dispositional attitudes,” or their tendencies to like or dislike things by…just asking them if they liked things. All kinds of things. Things like “bottled water,”  “curtains,” “mullets,” and “extinction.”

Okay, it was a little more complicated than that. Things that were more or less universally regarded as extremely positive or extremely negative were eliminated, and the researchers used people’s scores from the remaining 100 things to establish their baseline tendency toward liking or disliking. They eventually pared the questionnaire down to 16 items that can be used to test someone’s dispositional attitude.

Other experiments tested not only participants' dispositional attitudes but also whether they generally felt positive or negative emotions. They were then asked to report their feelings on a new product (a microwave) after reading three positive reviews and three negative reviews.

Results: The lovers loved and the haters hated, as they are wont to do. A positive dispositional attitude was associated with higher openness and curiosity, and feeling more positive emotions (the things they liked were making them happy I guess) and a negative one was associated with negative emotions. What’s more, people’s general tendency to like things or not like things was a pretty good predictor of whether they would like something new, in this case, the microwave.

Implications: If you’re cranky and you hate everything and everyone, chances are, if presented with a mystery item, you won’t like it.  If you are infectiously, virally happy, if you are a meme of happiness and liking things, you’ll probably like any new thing you come across, too. And in your heart of hearts, you already know which one you are. 


The study, Attitudes without Objects: Evidence for a Dispositional Attitude, its Measurement, and its Consequences, appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Presented by

Julie Beck is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Health Channel.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In