Sisterhood Blog

Can We Really Change?

By Elissa Strauss

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A study just came out showing that, as popular culture puts it, “haters are gonna hate.”

According to research presented in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who tend to dislike things they already know about are more likely to dislike things they have not yet to come in contact with. (h/t Wonkblog.)

The study asked a group of people their opinions about things like taxidermy, Japan and vaccines, and then asked them to read reviews of a new microwave that the researchers made up. The group that had said they hated the others things were more likely to hate the microwave, based upon the fabricated mixed reviews.

This is the time of the year when us Jews are supposed to think about teshuvah, or repenting for our sins. Teshuvah, which some translate to “review,” “return,” or “renewal,” is a way to take stock of our shortcomings and begin the year anew, or “returned” to our better selves.

I read about this study the same day I read over some of my answers to 10Q questions from previous years. (For those of you that don’t know, 10Q is high holidays-themed personal questionnaire from Reboot.) I was struck by how similar my answers would be this year to the last few years about what I regret and what I want to achieve. While I am not a “hater,” I certainly do have my fair share of not so positive behavioral tics that seem to come all too naturally to me, tics that I apparently am not too good at shedding.

So, can the haters ever stop hating? Can I ever learn to make better use of my time and be less judgmental of others?

Can people change? Really change?

I’d like to think that we can, and do, but that it is a two-steps forward, one-step back process at best, and only for those who really try. The nice thing about the Jewish calendar is that it forces every one of us to hold a mirror up to ourselves annually, whether we have been naughty or nice and whether our previous new year’s resolutions stick, or not. The goal is to keep trying to change, while hopefully, eventually, changing a little in the process.

I can’t say that even with all the teshuvah in the world that I believe that those haters will ever fully stop hating, or that I might ever fully stop judging. But with regular awareness we might be able to curb these instincts and this might be best any of us can do.

Elissa Strauss, a lead blogger for the Sisterhood, also writes about gender and culture for places like the New York Times, Jezebel and Salon. Follow her on Twitter @elissaavery.


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