Haters Gonna Potentially Be More Productive

London, England, UK --- Urban Grafitti, East London - Seasame Street style Monster (Oscar the grouch) in a bin.
Photo: Mark Bury/Arcaid/Corbis

Haters: They’re the worst, and they’re everywhere. You may even have one in your own office — a dour, taciturn figure who “doesn’t have time” to look at that awesome text you sent to your friend, who “doesn’t get” the cat meme you created, and who “really think[s] you should be working” rather than building an awesome fort out of cardboard boxes from the copy room. These people are immensely frustrating, but new research in the journal Social Psychology suggests that all that hating may give them more time to develop skills and expertise.

In two studies, the researchers tracked participants over the course of a week and gave them a personality test to sift hater from liker (which I would like to think included questions like “How fierce do you think Beyoncé has been so far in 2014?”). Haters, they found, “tended to do fewer activities throughout the week than did likers,” which jibes with the idea that they get less enthusiastic about all that stuff out there in the world.

This could have consequences for the career or skill trajectories of both groups. To the press release:

[L]ikers may adopt a jack-of-all-trades approach to life, investing small amounts of time in a wide variety of activities. This would leave them somewhat skilled at many tasks. In contrast, when haters find an activity they actually like, they may invest a larger amount of time in that task, allowing them to develop a higher skill level compared to likers. They said future work should confirm this possibility.

This same pattern could also be relevant to attentional control. For example, likers may have more difficulty sustaining attention on a task because they perceive so many interesting and distracting opportunities in their environment. In contrast, because haters like so few things, they may be unlikely to be distracted when they are doing a task, and thus their generalized dislike may actually benefit their attentional control.

They also may be unlikely to get invited to the kick-ass barbecue I’m having this weekend.