Alturism

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What Is Altruism?

By Kendra Cherry, About.com Guide

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See More About:
altruism
social psychology
prosocial behavior

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Definition:
What causes people to jeopardize their own health and well-being to help other people? What is it that inspires individuals to give their time, energy, and money to aid in the betterment of others, even when they receive nothing tangible in return? Altruism involves the unselfish concern for other people. It involves doing things simply out of a desire to help, not because you feel obligated to out of duty, loyalty, or religious reasons.

Everyday life is filled with small acts of altruism, from the guy at the grocery store who kindly holds the door open as you rush in from the parking lot to the woman who gives twenty dollars to a homeless man. News stories often focus on grander cases of altruism, such as a man who dives into an icy river to rescue a drowning stranger to a generous donor who gives thousands of dollars to a local charity. While we may be all too familiar with altruism, social psychologists are interested in understanding why it occurs. What inspires these acts of kindness? What motivates people to risk their own lives to save a complete stranger?

Altruism is one aspect of what social psychologists refer to as prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior refers to any action that benefits other people, no matter...
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