Hate is a very interesting condition and, like love, has no doubt been a major force in shaping human history and destinies. It thus seemed naturally interesting to learn something about the neural processes underlying it, which is why we undertook a study of it, to complement our earlier studies of romantic and maternal love. Our study of hate has still a long way to go, and we plan more experiments in this area in the future.
But there is another reason why I was interested in pursuing a study of hate. I have long had an academic colleague in whom I found nothing but hate, but I found it very difficult to pinpoint the source of this hatred towards me. For, to the best of my knowledge, I had done nothing to harm him in any way, indeed had been friendly and well-meaning towards him.
It must be the colour of my eyes or my manner of speaking, I thought.
And then I found that his hatred was not directed against me alone. It was more general than that – evident in letters he had written to, or about, other colleagues.
So, I concluded that he was just full of hate.
And I was really curious to learn about which parts of his brain become active when he looks at me and others – people whom he apparently hates irrationally (for there is no obvious reason why he should hate us).
Experiences – including unpleasant ones - can also be motivating factors in undertaking scientific work.
I was somewhat surprised by the results that we obtained. Given that hate is commonly irrational – and the example I give above obviously so – I expected to see significant de-activation of frontal, parietal, and temporal cortex, just as with romantic love, where people also commonly take leave of their senses. But, with hate, cortical de-activation was much more confined, in fact to an area which has also been found to be de-activated in cases of obsessive-compulsive disorders.
I have tried to account for this by supposing that the hating person wants to use all his judgmental powers to calculate how to harm the hated person. Indeed, activation of parts of the brain – in particular a structure known as the putamen, which has been linked to disgust and to motor preparation in an aggressive context – would support this.
As I say, there are many more studies yet to be done on brain processes and hate. The original inspiration – from my hating colleague – will be forgotten as more interesting insights are gained.
But it is as well to pay my compliments to him for being – at least in part – the inspirational source for this study.
Do I hate him in return? Of course not! How could anyone hate someone who inspires an interesting study!?