Why Is It Human Nature to Help Others?

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  • Topic: Kin selection, Altruism, Inclusive fitness
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Altruism: Helping Others

Why Is It Human Nature To Help Others?

By Sam Johnson

Why Is It Human Nature To Help Others?

To discuss why people help others we must consider whether people are by nature selfless or selfish. The dominant view today in psychology is of universal egoism; that we are fundamentally selfish, and that altruism (helping motivated by the wish to benefit another person) an impossibility, which we see described in Chapter 12. In this article "Do-Gooders - Generation Y aspires to altruism", the writer describes the Generation Y being kid's today daydream about earning big bucks someday, while more of them fantasize about becoming Good Samaritans by helping others. The Sociobioligical approach also sees helping as egoistic, but in terms of the individual maximizing their inclusive fitness (increasing the chances of their genes being passed on), rather than their personal fitness. According the report in the article we see that a 56 percent majority of kids aged 8 to 17 say that being rich is their number one fantasy--but that number has tumbled 9 percentage points from 1995. The likelihood of a person helping another was strongly correlated with their genetic relatedness to the person. Critics of this theory, however, counter these findings with the argument that the subjects were more motivated to avoid social disapproval or feelings of guilt. On the other hand, even highly empathic people will avoid helping if the costs are high and they can escape responsibilities easily.

In conclusion, I feel that the evidence seems to support the idea of universal egoism; in deciding whether to help or not, humans are fundamentally selfish, and altruism is impossibility. However, whether this egoism is driven by the motivation to maximize personal fitness or inclusive fitness is not yet clear.

Works Cited:

Gallop-Goodman, Gerda . "Do-Gooders - Generation Y aspires to altruism." 2001. Forecast. 01 Dec. 2004
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